More than 300 history faculty members and others have signed a letter supporting the ousted director of the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Center of the American West.
Last fall, Glen Krutz, Boulder’s dean of arts and sciences, fired Patty Limerick, a tenured professor of history and environmental studies, from the center's faculty director position. She co-founded the center in 1986.
An internal audit of the center said staff members had complained about the center’s climate under Limerick and were concerned that she blurred boundaries between the personal and professional, including with money.
Regarding her firing, the letter from supporters says “Many of us, her colleagues in Western history and beyond, watched with dismay, emailing our support to her and expressing concern to the dean and administration. Others observed the events more silently, wondering if perhaps more information would be revealed to justify the dean’s actions.”
“Now that more than nine months have passed, no evidence has been revealed, and it has become even clearer that the impact of the dean’s actions has been irreparable and far-reaching,” the letter says. “The Center of the American West is currently fading, and while it may yet be resuscitated, there will be lasting loss and damage to CU Boulder and the fields of Western history, applied history and countless others.”
"Rightly or wrongly, Limerick’s removal as a woman in power for something men regularly do without recourse is notable," the letter says. It urges Boulder administration “to support Limerick’s work as she rounds out her long, illustrious career. At the very least, allow her to fulfill the ongoing commitments and contributions that she has made to Boulder and the broader community.”
The letter also says “Much of the board of the Center has resigned in protest, donors have pulled funds, no new programming has been announced other than a few co-sponsorships, and no search for Limerick’s replacement is underway."
Boulder didn’t respond to requests for comment Friday.
Limerick said Friday that the center appears dormant and she doesn’t want to be its director again. “I just think that the wind is out of the sails of the Center of the American West,” she said. She touted the Applied History Initiative she now directs at Boulder. She suggested dropping the center, rebranding and creating a new entity called Programs in American West Studies.