Account from Isaac Pickell, current Wayne State PhD student

Molli Spalter & 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.

Next week, we will defend ourselves against this latest effort of Barrett’s at the Dean of Students Office.
We are each accused of four violations of the Student Code of Conduct:
• 4.3 Physical abuse of another person, or conduct which threatens or endangers another, or verbal or physical threats which cause reasonable apprehension of harm.
• 4.6 Disorderly behavior that interferes with activities authorized, sponsored, or permitted by the University such as teaching, research, administration, and including disorderly behavior that interferes with the freedom of expression of others.
• 4.14 Intentional obstruction or disruption of institutional activities or functions.
• 4.15 Failure to comply with the direction of any authorized institutional representative, acting in the performance of his/her duties.

Molli is also singled out for her role in making public Barrett’s pattern of abuse:
• On April 23, 2019, it was discovered that you posted inflammatory and untrue allegations about Professor Barrett Watten on Facebook attempting to interfere with his professional responsibility to evaluate another student’s work.

The situation escalated toward this current boiling point after an altercation between Barrett and I in the English Department building. Barrett is currently using that incident to claim I “physically threatened” and “verbally assaulted” him. He instigated the conflict and only he was aggressive, insulting, and violent. Despite there already being multiple complaints pending against Barrett, the Dean of Students Office (yes, the same office Dean of Students Office) ruled that I must not contact Barrett in any way and must issue him an apology. I declined. My response to their request follows:

Dear [Dr. ],
I have let myself down countless times over the years, abandoned my convictions for the sake of expediency. I regret those moments, but they do not haunt me. What does stick with me are the times I’ve let down others, when I’ve abandoned people I care about to make my path forward easier. In this situation, apologizing without cause to a serial abuser of power — a gaslighter and bully, a man who continues to prey on graduate students for professional and personal gain, then sets out to slander them if they refuse his controlling practices — is not something I can live with.

The incident in question came at the end months of abuse from Professor Watten against both myself and my closest colleagues, abuse that has been documented with various administrative offices (including the Title IX Department) here at Wayne State. In response to my passing criticism, Professor Watten used profanity, yelled at me, cornered me and stuck his finger in my face, bumped me, demanded I talk with him behind the closed door of his office, called me a failure and a fraud, threatened my standing at the university, and insulted me in various other ways I expressed in my
initial letter. The power disparity that he took advantage of during the incident echoes his more serious mistreatment of other graduate students, which would be endorsed if I were to accept his demand for contrition.

I will not be apologizing to Professor Watten, and humbly entreat you to consider taking action against him if and when I (or my peers) file a complaint.
Thank you,
Isaac Pickell

There is no cause for the charges Barrett has leveled against us and no reason for the
University to continue to consider them, now that his decades of abuse are being revealed. I will keep looking for the courage to publicly acknowledge Barrett’s specific abuses, but for now I hope this brief addendum is telling and adds some context for my decision to speak out loud.

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