How to Become an Official Enemy of the Professional Academic State.

The Timeline of the Sartwell Case, and What It All Means

1. The Timeline of the Sartwell case.

Feb. 24 – Sartwell’s post against the APA statement on bullying:

Feb. 27 – Sartwell’s post stating his intention to leave academia:

Feb. 28 – Sartwell accuses Linda Zagzebski of plagiarism and posts a link to a music video by Miranda Lambert called “Time to Get a Gun”:

March 1 – Sartwell writes the Oklahoma philosophy chair to inform him of the plagiarism charges. Sometime before March 3, someone at Oklahoma (Sartwell presumes it is Zagzebski and/or the department chair, Wayne Riggs) contacted the police to complain that Sartwell’s plagiarism accusation included a death threat in the form of the Miranda Lambert video. Then the Dickinson police are contacted.

March 3 – Dickinson Provost Neil Weissman and General Counsel Dana Scaduto met with Sartwell, then removed him from campus, demanding that he undergo a psychiatric evaluation “as a condition of employment.”

March 9 – Sartwell asks for retirement with a severance package

March 10 – Weissman and Scaduto reply with an offer Sartwell does not accept, including the same demand that he undergo a psychiatric evaluation before entering campus. They draft another offer including a $30,000 lump sum and a campus ban. The offer stipulates that Sartwell must respond by March 31.

March 11 – Zagzebski publicly accuses Sartwell of threatening Riggs, and accuses him of having “mental health problems”:

March 30 – Sartwell responds to Dickinson’s severance offer (a day before the deadline) rejecting the offer, and stating that he does not wish to resign.

April 4 – Dana Scaduto writes to Sartwell, arguing that he had already resigned (via statements to both Weissman and on his blog to the effect that he intended to resign) and that the severance offer on the table, along with his pay and benefits, were to be considered merely a “courtesy” independent of his resignation. Sartwell then receives official notice from Human Resources at Dickinson that his employment had ended effective March 31.

For further details, see Sartwell’s blog post examining the timeline:

2. What It All Means

What is the real issue at the heart of the Sartwell case?

At this point it may seem that these five previous APP posts on ideological “hyper-discipline” in professional academic philosophy and on Dickinson’s mistreatment of Crispin Sartwell are old news:

Hyper-Disciplined Minds: The Professionalization of Philosophy and the Death of Dissent

Abusive Speech vs. Edgy Speech: Professional Philosophy’s Fanny Squeers and Professional Philosophy’s Lenny Bruce

What It’s Like to Exit Professional Philosophy: Crispin Sartwell

On Playing the “Mental Health Issues” Card in the Crispin Sartwell Debate

The Leiter-Motif in the Sartwell Debate, and the Double-Edged Sword

Dickinson indeed trampled on Sartwell’s right to free speech and played the “mental health issues” card, but now there is escalation.

Now we will hear from those fluent in lawyerese about contracts, what constitutes a formal resignation, etc.

But I think it is important not to lose sight of how this all started, with a non-threatening music video and dishonest and condescending claims about Sartwell’s well-being and “mental health.”

Sartwell became an official enemy of the Professional Academic State (PAS) when he criticized the APA statement on bullying.

Being declared an enemy of the PAS is sufficient for being blacklisted in academia, but sometimes it takes a little something extra to be totally thrown over the edge.

That’s where the Zagzebski/Nehamas thing comes in.

Satrwell’s accusation of plagiarism was enough to signal to the elites that he was a threat, and people who are threatening are labeled “crazy” and in need of some kind of professional help (which, put that way, just reeks of neo-liberal fascism parading as compassion and concern).

To go along with that, consider Dickinson’s demand that Sartwell be evaluated by a psychiatrist before being re-instated at the college.

Again, they parade as compassionate and concerned, but what is the function of such a demand?

Effectively, the function is to punish him and to get him to implicitly submit, which is itself not far off from an acceptance of guilt.

But again, the important thing is to notice that the tools Dickinson uses for violating Sartwell’s dignity are those that, normally, are used to protect people, to be accommodating to people, to respect people.

It makes sense, doesn’t it?

It sounds like Dickinson and their legal team are going to argue that he had already resigned from his position, because he stated on blogs and in e-mails to administrators that he was “done” with academia and “retired”.

So their claims are:

  • he had already resigned, despite the fact that he made no formal resignation and no administrator explicitly recognized him as having resigned until after he explicitly declared that he was not resigning,
  • the severance offer was something they would consider out of the kindness of their hearts to help him “transition” out of his professional philosophy gig.

Now maybe I don’t understand the nature of a severance offer, but I would think that if one is under negotiation, then the employer cannot regard the formal resignation process as complete until negotiations are final.

And since Sartwell explicitly rejected their offer before it expired, making it clear that he was not going to resign, he never did in fact resign.

The only way this obvious fact can begin to be obscured by those who want Sartwell gone is to paint a picture of him as an unhinged, dangerous person.

There is nothing scarier in academia today than an unconventional, “outside-the-box” thinker who doesn’t keep within the bounds of what is deemed acceptable by those who set the agenda.

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