The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Colin McGinn is leaving Miami “amid allegations that he sent improper messages to a graduate student.” (The story is behind a pay-wall.)
“Mr. McGinn…denies allegations that he behaved improperly. Those allegations were lodged by a female graduate student who has said that the professor sent her a series of sexually explicit e-mail and text messages, starting in the spring-2012 semester.”
“one message in which they said Mr. McGinn wrote that he had been thinking about the student while masturbating.”
I haven’t been able to see the whole story due to the pay wall. UPDATE: But here’s some more. (Thanks E and K!)
In the Miami case, the female graduate student first approached the university’s Office of Equality Administration, which handles harassment-related cases, near the beginning of the fall semester last year. She had previously taken a course with Mr. McGinn in the fall of 2011, and began serving as his research assistant soon after.
The student, who asked to remain anonymous because she is planning to pursue a career in philosophy, said in an e-mail that she began to feel uncomfortable around Mr. McGinn at the start of the spring semester a year ago. Her discomfort hit a high point in April, she wrote, “when he began sending me extremely inappropriate and uncomfortable messages, which continued until the beginning of the summer.”
The student declined to share the messages with The Chronicle. However, her long-term boyfriend, [name deleted by FP]—a fifth-year graduate student in the department—described some of the correspondence, including several passages that he said were sexually explicit. Mr. [deleted], along with two professors with whom the student has worked, described one message in which they said Mr. McGinn wrote that he had been thinking about the student while masturbating.
Advocates of Mr. McGinn, however, say that the correspondence may have been misinterpreted when taken out of context.
Edward Erwin, a supporter of Mr. McGinn who is a professor of philosophy at the University of Miami, said Mr. McGinn was working on a book about human evolution and the hand. Part of the reason Mr. McGinn was sending messages that could be interpreted as sexually explicit, Mr. Erwin said, was probably because of communication about that research.
“There was some sexual talk, banter, puns, and jokes made between the two,” Mr. Erwin said. “The written records, I believe, show that this was an entirely consensual relationship,” he said. And that relationship, he added, was not sexual.
The case made its way to Donna E. Shalala, president of the University of Miami, who had a “strong” personal reaction to the allegations, Mr. Erwin said. Ms. Shalala, who served in President Bill Clinton’s administration, has been recognized for her advocacy of women’s rights.
A university spokeswoman declined to comment on Ms. Shalala’s behalf.
After the university’s Office of Equality Administration and the vice provost for faculty affairs conducted an investigation, Mr. McGinn was given the option of agreeing to resign or having an investigation into the allegations against him continue in a public setting, several of the philosopher’s colleagues said.
“Colin chose to resign after he learned, or had very good reason to believe, that his tenure was going to be revoked regardless of what he did,” Mr. Erwin said. “It’s been an unfortunate situation.”
In addition to Mr. Erwin’s support, Mr. McGinn has won backing from some philosophers at other universities who have written to the University of Miami on his behalf, according to faculty members at Miami.
For all of the accolades Mr. McGinn has brought to Miami, some faculty members believe that he crossed a line in his messages to the graduate student.
Ms. Thomasson, who has been in touch with the student throughout the case, said she had read through a number of e-mails the student brought to her and found them to contain sexual content that could not be considered simply an academic discussion of sexuality. “I read enough to see that they had explicitly sexual content,” she said.
Ms. Thomasson added that the case at Miami underscores the discouraging climate for many women in philosophy today.
“The situation of this student isn’t isolated; there are plenty of similar stories at other departments,” she said. “It’s situations like this that draw some female students out of the field, which is a real tragedy.”
A couple of initial reflections:
-It’s an astounding new development in the field for allegations like this to be taken so seriously that someone is forced out AND for this not to have been hushed up.
-I’ll bet the victim who wants to be anonymous really really didn’t want her boyfriend named either. Yeesh.
UPDATE: Full story can now be found here. Thanks, S!
UPDATE: Due to the volume and nature of (attempted) comments on this thread, we are closing comments. They may be reopened in the future.