National Union Examines Sartwell Case

Rachael Franchini ’19, Associate News Editor

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A leading national organization concerned with academic freedom and tenure has questioned the college’s decision to terminate the employment of philosophy professor Crispin Sartwell and called for his reinstatement.

In an April 12 letter to President Nancy Roseman, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) says the college was wrong to claim that Sartwell had resigned on the basis of his emails, blog posts and other public statements.

The letter said “the academic community at large” would not understand Sartwell’s statements “to constitute a formal resignation.”

The letter, signed by AAUP associate secretary Anita Levy, says, “Given the academic freedom issues raised by this case, we are concerned that no proceeding has taken place in which the administration would assume the burden of demonstrating adequate cause for dismissing Professor Sartwell from his tenured appointment.”

It calls upon Dickinson to “rescind the notice of termination issued to Professor Sartwell pending a hearing consistent with the dismissal procedures set forth in Dickinson College regulations and AAUP’s recommended standards.”

When asked about the AAUP letter, Roseman responded in an email, “The decisions of Dickinson College regarding faculty personnel matters are made in consultation with the committee of elected representatives of the faculty responsible for such oversight as well as affected members of a faculty member’s particular department.”

Roseman added, “Dr. Sartwell’s characterization of events is false.  I can also assure you that the college has acted consistently with its policies and the AAUP’s standards based upon the available facts, not all of which are publically known.”

The AUUP concedes in its letter that its position is based on information “largely from him and from media accounts,” and that it may not have all the relevant information.

Sartwell, who has said he plans to sue the college, said in an email he is  “suspending public statements” on his case.  According to his blog,, he has hired Jim Lieber of the Pittsburgh firm Lieber, Hammer, Huber and Paul to represent him. Sartwell’s GoFundMe campaign to pay his legal expenses had raised $4,435 of a goal of $5,000 as of April 19.

Sartwell was put on leave on March 3 after allegedly threatening a professor at the University of Oklahoma whom he accused of plagiarizing his work.

Sartwell says 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.” College officials have repeatedly said Sartwell’s account of the events leading up to his leave is inaccurate.

On March 30, Sartwell rejected a severance package offered by the school. The college then claimed that Sartwell had quit his job and terminated his employment.