Monica Morrison has now let herself be named in her lawsuit against the University of Miami for its mishandling of Colin McGinn’s harassment. Those of us who have written on the internet know the horrific campaigns directed against women who step out of line and complain against misogynistic behaviour. This is true generally, and it is true specifically in philosophy. She has survived one horrible ordeal– harassment, made worse by being so poorly handled, and now the trolls can easily find her. And she knows all this. I am blown away by the immense bravery shown by her filing this suit.
Our field, and academia in general, have the potential to be vastly improved by Miami being held to account. They were given copious records of exchanges like this:
McGinn: I love your essence
McGinn: Plus it gives me a slight erection
Morrison: Can I borrow your philosophy of physics book…the one by lange [sic].
McGinn: So I expect a hand job when I next see you.
McGinn: I like to amuse you.
McGinn: Now I’ve got a slight erection.
McGinn: I’m imagining you.
Morrison did not reply to the texts.
Later that month, McGinn pressed her for a response, and she eventually texted, “Yeah, I was a bit surprised” and said “I won’t really know how to respond [sic]…I suppose I should be flattered?”
They knew that:
He emailed her at least once a day between Dec. 19 and Dec. 27, with little response from her. In a Dec. 27 email, he wrote, “I think you owe me unlimited hand strokes and full body grips for abandoning me over Christmas.” Over winter break, which lasted about a month, McGinn emailed her more than 30 times and spoke with her just once, according to his own count in an email he sent her Jan. 15, 2012.
It was clear that he was pressuring her quite explicitly:
McGinn wrote that he missed Morrison and wasn’t able to see her as much as he wanted. He complained about their working relationship, stating in an email he is not “getting much in return” and said “I need you to make a big gesture in my direction–anything would do.”
She resigned her position as his research assistant on Sept. 11, 2012. Two days later, McGinn emailed her, stating “you are much better off with my support than without it. So please think carefully about your actions.”
And yet they treated the case as one of consensual relationship. And as McGinn retaliated in his public statements, including an interview in which he publicly shared information that allowed her to be identified, the university did nothing. They claimed there was nothing that he could do, but he was on their payroll.
The University of Miami maintains that “they chose to pursue this informal route to achieve an immediate resolution.” Importantly, they do NOT claim that they actually believed the relationship to be consensual.
This sort of sweeping-under-the-rug behaviour is shockingly common. But it is what allows perpetrators to continue to flourish in our discipline. Usually it all remains private, and they move quietly from institution to institution, ruining victims’ lives in one place after another.
Monica Morrison is doing an immense service to academia with her towering bravery in refusing to accept the way that Miami dealt with the case. We all owe her a tremendous debt.