Leave “will not be temporary,” Sartwell says

Crispin Sartwell, former associate professor of philosophy.

Crispin Sartwell, former associate professor of philosophy.

A Dickinson philosophy professor who was placed on temporary leave on March 3 has indicated in several online posts that he will not be returning to campus.

Crispin Sartwell was put on leave on March 3 after college officials received a complaint that he had threatened a scholar at the University of Oklahoma. Subsequently, Sartwell said in a comment on The Dickinsonian website that the leave “will not be temporary.” In a comment on his blog, eyeofthestorm.blogs.com, he said that he is “not going to participate …whatsoever” in any “disciplinary process” that the college might initiate against him.

Prior to Sartwell’s leave, college officials had received a call from the University of Oklahoma expressing concern that Sartwell had threatened philosophy professor Linda Zagzebski over an alleged case of plagiarism. The perception of threat stemmed from a video of Miranda Lambert singing the song “Time to Get a Gun” that Sartwell embedded at the end of a post where he accused Zagzebski of plagiarizing his work.

Sartwell also suggested that the work of Princeton University philosopher Alexander Nehamas was strikingly similar to his own, but did not directly accuse Nehamas of plagiarism. Nehemas, however, refuted Sartwell’s allegations in a statement for an article on dailynous.com

“I believe Sartwell’s accusation is perfectly groundless—and, just for the record, I never read his book,” Nehamas said, referring to Sartwell’s 2004 book Six Names of Beauty, which Sartwell claimed Nehamas had copied or not cited in his own work.

In blog posts, Sartwell said that college officials failed to take his plagiarism charge seriously and to protect his right to free speech. He said they were making him “a free speech martyr for country music” by putting him on leave over the Lambert song

On Thursday, professors in the philosophy department dispelled rumors on Thursday that Sartwell had been “fired” and assured students that he was on “temporary leave,” according to Chauncey Maher, philosophy department chair. Maher said that the department is working to cover Sartwell’s two classes, political philosophy and Asian philosophy, in his absence.