A Statement of Solidarity from the Wayne State Graduate Employees Organizing Committee

A Statement of Solidarity with the English Department | Facebook GEOC Wayne State https://m.facebook.com/notes/geoc-wayne-state/a-statement-of-solidarity-with-the-english-department/2332057103748643/ The Graduate Employees Organizing Committee (GEOC) stands with employees against all forms of harassment, intimidation, and threats to their safety and security. With permission of the graduate employees affected by the behavior of Dr. Barrett Watten as described in this recent … Continue reading A Statement of Solidarity from the Wayne State Graduate Employees Organizing Committee

An account from C.T., an undergraduate student (senior) at Wayne State

Professor Watten has released sensitive writings of mine without permission, circulated them in class, and bullied me into answering questions/reading such work without consent. He has belittled me during these times of vulnerability, and lessened my lived experiences, telling me how I should have handled myself in those moments within my stories, while simultaneously telling … Continue reading An account from C.T., an undergraduate student (senior) at Wayne State

Letter from WSU

Statement to English Department 5.3.19 (00079664xBFCFF) Statement to English Department faculty and graduate students: from [Redacted] and[Redacted] Due to confidentiality and neutrality reasons, no names will be mentioned in this note. The University has retained a well-qualified individual who is outside of WSU ([redacted]) to investigate a number of issues that have recently come to … Continue reading Letter from WSU

Account from a current grad student in the Wayne State English department

I am writing to corroborate other collected statements detailing Barrett Watten’s behavior both in and outside the classroom. I was enrolled in his seminar classes Winter 2018 and Fall 2018. Winter semester was my first experience with Watten and many of the other students. As it was early in my grad school experience, the actions … Continue reading Account from a current grad student in the Wayne State English department

Account from Michael Cross, publisher, poet, and professor

As a Ph.D. candidate at SUNY Buffalo, I had the displeasure of interacting with Barrett Watten many times during his interview visit for the David Gray Chair. His toxicity was immediately apparent, and his behavior towards graduate students immediately set off warning signals. He was especially aggressive toward female graduate students, going so far as … Continue reading Account from Michael Cross, publisher, poet, and professor

Account from Lynn Crawford, writer and critic

I, a Detroit based fiction writer and art critic, was thrilled when Barrett Watten came to town because I was intrigued by his writings. Sadly, I had a terrible experience with him. Around 2006, a group of Detroit based writers/artists/thinkers worked together to launch a journal. He was in the group. It was the worst … Continue reading Account from Lynn Crawford, writer and critic

Account from a poet and professor at an institution other than Wayne State

This first email that Watten ever sent me was “Fuck you, you little twit.” I hadn't even met him yet. This was back in the late 90s. I was still in my 20s, he was quite established then. He was upset about something I had written on the {Buffalo} poetics listserv, which was really quite … Continue reading Account from a poet and professor at an institution other than Wayne State

Account from Marjorie Perloff, poetry scholar and Humanities Professor at Stanford University

I first met Barret Watten in 1985 or so when I wrote my piece called "Language Poetry in the 80s." Shortly thereafter I met Watten and Ron Silliman; we had coffee in Berkeley. At that point Watten was not yet belligerent. Soon, however, I witnessed his abusiveness first hand, namely at one of the conferences … Continue reading Account from Marjorie Perloff, poetry scholar and Humanities Professor at Stanford University

Account by Craig Dworkin, Professor, English, University of Utah

Like many in the sub-sub-field of contemporary poetry and poetics, I have encountered Barrett Watten’s unprofessional, infantile, petulant, and surprisingly rage-filled behavior first hand. Fortunately, I have always had the luxury of ignoring him for what he is, but want to add my account to corroborate the testimony of those who have been unable to avoid him. [Click heading to read more]

An account from a PhD student at Wayne

In the summer 2016 directed study mentioned above, after a class meeting, the other student and I went out for a beer. On the walk back to the parking lot, we ran into Dr. Watten on the street. He berated us in an aggressive, raised voice for excluding him, stating that he put a lot of time and energy into the directed study and was “disappointed” in both of us. I was very uncomfortable and felt he was out of line in both tone and substance. [Click heading to read more]

An account from Tracy Neumann, associate professor of history at Wayne State

In January 2017, Barrett and I had an email exchange that I now recognize reflects patterns described in other testimonies on this site: he tried to use a graduate student to mediate between us, he took no responsibility for his violent outburst and instead acted as though it was a mishap for which no one was at fault, and he entreated me to tell others that I bore no ill will toward him.
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Clay Walker, current faculty at Wayne State University (and graduate of the PhD program in Composition and Rhetoric at WSU)

As a first year graduate student, I had no idea how to respond to someone of Barrett's stature and position; I felt intimidated by him every time I saw him around the department and I worked to evade walking by his office as much as possible.
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Account from Bryan McCann, former assistant professor at Wayne State, current associate professor, LSU Dept. of Communication Studies

But my primary motivation for contributing to the powerful work on display here is to confirm that everything other people have shared from personal experience resonates strongly with Watten’s reputation. By the time I arrived at Wayne, his verbal attack against his colleague Kathryne Lindberg was still very much a topic of conversation. One longtime member of the faculty shared with me that he and many of our colleagues believed Watten's treatment of Lindberg contributed to her suicide. I also learned from another colleague that Watten had taken to bragging that, after Lindberg’s suicide, all his major adversaries in the department had either left or were dead.
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Account from Danielle Aubert, Associate Professor, Wayne State

We were prepared for hostility from Barrett based on emails that had been exchanged. There were about 6 or 7 of us around a table. Barrett made it difficult to have a discussion by talking over people loudly, for a long time. I said something like, “I think you are acting like a bully to get your way.” He abruptly rose out of his chair, leaned across the table toward me and shouted at me not to call him a bully. His face was reddish purple, he was extremely angry.
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Account from Richard Grusin, Former Wayne State Department of English Chair, Professor at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

"I am extremely troubled, as I presume you must be as well, by the fact that in just over a year of your tenure as interim chair, Barrett Watten has engaged in three instances of verbal and emotional violence against women in the department--a staff member, a graduate student, and a full professor, the last of which you witnessed yourself. These incidents have created a hostile atmosphere in the department, particularly but not exclusively for untenured female faculty."
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Account from Brian Whitener, Professor at University of South Alabama

I am writing to corroborate a posting made by Marie Buck. I moved to Michigan in the summer of 2008 and became friends with Marie in the following year. I recall vividly a series of conversations about how to handle the situation with Barrett. In particular, I recall conversations discussing how to handle the voicemails Marie details, conversations concerning the creation of the record she has posted, and conversations after these events about how to navigate her PhD program and the social space of poetry in Detroit where Barrett is/was a figure.
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An account from Molli Spalter, current Wayne State PhD student

I want to reiterate that because of these interactions with Barrett, particularly when he approached me outside State Hall, I am afraid to be alone on the 9th floor, worried that I may encounter him and be subjected to physical and emotional intimidation and abuse. I take the stairs from the 10th floor to the 8th floor before getting on the elevator so I will not be stuck in an elevator with him. Of note, I am not alone in these behaviors. Other female graduate students avoid being around Barrett at all costs. Recently, Barrett showed up at a WEGO Final Friday event and female graduate students left because they were uncomfortable sharing a social space with him.
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An account from Donnie J. Sackey, former faculty member in the Wayne State Department of English

One of the most humiliating experiences as a faculty member was how he and another faculty member attacked me and another colleague (a woman of color) during a meeting. The other white faculty members sat quietly. Some reached out afterwards to talk about how racist it was.
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Account from Isaac Pickell, current Wayne State PhD student

Molli Spalte and I have both filed official complaints detailing Barrett Watten’s years-long method of abuse, including harassment, bullying, intimidation, and trying to sow distrust and animus into our relationship. While I am not yet comfortable detailing this publicly, know that we are being targeted by a serial abuser for sharing the open secret of his abusive behavior. Barrett is using the institution’s deference to authority against us; the only strength we have is in numbers.
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Account from Marie Buck, graduate of the Wayne State PhD program

I am posting this here in hopes that 1) all of Barrett's disciplinary charges against current students are dropped; given his history of abusive behavior toward students, he is trustworthy and 2) that Barrett is not allowed contact with graduate or undergraduate students in the future and 3) that Barrett is not invited into poetry spaces in the future. It should be noted that in addition to the people who have given specific stories here, almost everyone I have ever come into contact with in the poetry community has expressed wariness around Barrett because of his reputation for belligerent and physically intimidating behavior . . .
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An account from Jonathan Flatley, professor in the Wayne State Department of English

"The most frightening and concerning part of the interaction was Barrett’s angry, aggressive and threatening bodily posture and facial expression, even more than his also upsetting and offensive angry verbal outburst. The whole event was disturbing and distressing to witness."
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An account from Tara Forbes, graduate of the Wayne State PhD program

"I have been informed that Barrett then confronted the male faculty member's partner, who is a woman faculty member (not from English), about her partner's behaviour. This is approximately when I entered the hallway of the Student Center (outside the teach-in room) and saw Barrett shouting at the woman faculty member, including telling her to keep her husband in line, and that her husband only approached him because he was jealous of Barrett being "an intellectual male presence" in the woman faculty member's life."
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An account from a poetry scholar

I tried one final time to disengage, saying I was going back to my hotel. He put his forearm around my neck to stop me from leaving. I was having trouble dealing with it; it was so bizarre and disturbing. [Redacted] came hustling out of a café in the atrium and in his gentle way physically removed Barrett’s arm and stood in his way. I was very shaken and went back to my hotel, immediately telling my friend [redacted] about it.
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Account from Nick Fleisher, former faculty member in the Wayne State Department of English

I was only at Wayne for three years, as an assistant professor on the other side of the department, so my encounters with BW were relatively limited. In my third and final year there I chaired the department’s Policy Committee, and BW had some issue he was very angry about, which caused him to draft a lengthy and strident email to the faculty list . . .
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