Sartwell: Won’t Return, But Will Sue

Jessica Sykes ’16, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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Associate Professor of Philosophy Crispin Sartwell, who was placed on leave on March 3, says he is rejecting the severance package offered to him by the college and plans to file a lawsuit against the school.

In an email to The Dickinsonian on Tuesday, March 29, Sartwell wrote, “I will not be accepting [the severance offer] and I will not return [to my faculty position].”

Sartwell provided The Dickinsonian with a copy of the “Separation Agreement and Release” document sent to him by the college. It offers a lump sum payment of $30,000. It stipulates that Sartwell would return all college property and agree not to sue the college. He is also not permitted on campus without the prior approval of the provost’s office.

Sartwell was put on leave on March 3 for allegedly threatening a professor at the University of Oklahoma after Sartwell accused the same professor of plagiarism.

Sartwell says that the claim he “made a death threat by posting a country song is absurd” and that his removal from campus was a “violation of academic freedom and freedom of the press.”

“It showed an institution with no commitment to or understanding of these things, and with no appreciation for my role and contribution for all these years at the college,” he said.

Sartwell says he would not return to Dickinson “if it was the last college on earth.”

Sartwell also reported that he will be hiring a lawyer and is “getting set to file a lawsuit.”

One point of disagreement between Sartwell and the college is Sartwell’s claim that he was “fired” on March 3. Provost Neil Weissman says that Sartwell “remains a member of our faculty on leave.”

“Professor Sartwell has publicly made multiple claims of mistreatment by the college, including I understand recently to The Dickinsonian,” Weissman said via email on March 29. “The college strongly disputes his characterization of what has occurred.”

The philosophy department has not yet begun to search for a replacement for Sartwell because of the uncertainty surrounding the negotiations with the college.

“It is best from the point of view of the students that we know sooner rather than later, in either case,” said Department Chair Chauncey Maher. “It will take a good four weeks to find an appropriate replacement for all the classes that [Sartwell] taught.”

According to Maher, the department would like to offer the same courses next semester if Sartwell resigns and if they could find an “appropriate scholar” to replace him.

After he was put on leave on March 3, Sartwell began to make claims that he would not return to his professorship. Sartwell said in a March 3 comment on The Dickinsonian website that the leave “will not be temporary.” In a comment on his blog,, he said that he is “not going to participate …whatsoever” in any “disciplinary process” that the college might initiate against him.

An earlier version of this article inadvertently omitted Provost Neil Weissman’s first name and title.