Both Lamphere and the University were entitled to discovery – such as the exchange of documents and data and the questioning of parties and potential witnesses in depositions.
Among the key documents obtained by Lamphere in discovery were copies of correspondence among members of the Anthropology Department. The University, acting for itself and on behalf of Department Chairman Philip Leis and his principal correspondent, Associate Professor George Hicks, had asked that the correspondence, or at least certain portions of it, not be turned over to Lamphere and her lawyers. They argued that the letters were private exchanges between friends.
In December 1976, Judge Pettine rejected the arguments against producing the letters and ordered the full correspondence be handed over. It was during this time that Charles C. Tillinghast, Jr., then the Brown Chancellor and chair of the Corporation committee overseeing the Lamphere litigation, told the committee that a “smoking gun” had been turned up in discovery, making it necessary to settle the case. The Anthropology Department correspondence was probably the smoking gun.
The correspondence, hundreds of pages over several years in an era before e-mail, contains gossip, personal confidences, discussion of the field work that members of the Department were conducting, and exchanges about departmental business – including hiring and promotion decisions and the tenure cases of Lamphere and others. A few of the letters are excerpted here – the first time any of them has been made public.
What made the Anthropology Department’s correspondence important?
- It suggested that the Anthropology Department’s views on the quality of Lamphere’s scholarship were related to the fact that her work was on women. As a federal court later held, “A disdain for women’s issues, and a diminished opinion of those who concentrate on those issues, is evidence of a discriminatory attitude towards women.” (Lynn v. Regents of the University of California, 656 F. 2d 1337, 1343 (9th Cir., 1981))
- The correspondence made it more difficult for Brown and the Department of Anthropology to argue that Lamphere’s tenure review was conducted professionally and objectively, as the University claimed was the norm for all departments.
- Although the jibes about the religion, ethnicity, and anatomical features of faculty and graduate students were not specific to Lamphere, they showed a departmental climate that raised questions about whether women would be treated fairly.
In his 2014 oral history, Philip Leis discussed why he believed the Anthropology Department documents were private and why they did not provide evidence of discrimination.