After receiving complaints from employees from the Center for the American West, the University of Colorado Boulder has fired the director and founder Patty Limerick.
Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Glen Krutz fired Limerick, who remains a researcher and tenured professor of history at CU Boulder, on Sept. 23. Krutz declined to comment, but a spokesperson for the university said that the decision to fire Limerick occurred after “a lengthy period of addressing repeat complaints.”
The CU Boulder Department of Internal Audit (IA) opened an investigation on Limerick on May 26 after a center employee reported “mistreatment” of center management and employees in April. IA released the audit a week after Limerick’s dismissal.
The audit summarizes interviews with nine current and former CU Boulder and center staff members, including Limerick. Seven members expressed concern about a lack of respect for personal and professional boundaries. Limerick allegedly asked center employees to help her with personal issues during work hours, though she denied this in the audit interview.
In an email to IA, the center’s part-time academic programs coordinator and the initial tipper to university officials, Roni Ires, said, “Whenever Patty asks for help of any kind, it comes across as urgent and necessary… And because she is the boss and is also expressing what seems an urgent need, I feel extremely uncomfortable at the thought of saying no, and I never hesitated to say yes.”
Staff members cited a birthday party for Limerick in May 2022 after a Board of Directors meeting where they said they felt “uncomfortable” with the association between the two events and felt required to attend.
Other reported incidents included assistance with Limerick’s late husband’s funeral, personal taxes, speaking engagements and her wedding to her second husband.
The audit concluded that “Limerick’s relationship with her staff is fractured” and recommended working with the Human Resources Department and providing Limerick with training “to assist her with recognizing and respecting her staff’s boundaries.”
The audit also investigated allegations of fiscal misconduct but did not find enough evidence to support the claims.
After news of Limerick’s dismissal spread, The Colorado Sun reported that the entire five-member executive committee of the center’s board resigned, with other board members to follow.
According to a statement from the university on Oct. 5, the College of Arts and Sciences named Tom Zeiler, professor of history at CU Boulder, as the interim faculty director for the center to replace Limerick.
“Professor Zeiler is a proven dynamic and vibrant voice in the academic community, with a unique perspective on the history of the American West,” Krutz said in the statement.
Krutz said that Zeiler will lead the process of moving forward in wake of the series of resignations and “rebuilding relationships” within and outside of the center.
Despite the wave of support for Limerick, it seems that the university will not reinstate her role as faculty director at the center.
“The university appreciates former director Patty Limerick’s significant contributions to all aspects of scholarship centered on the American West,” said University Spokesperson Andrew Sorensen in a statement. He went on to say, “Dean Glen Krutz considered professor Limerick’s perspective in this process but did not see a pathway to resolve outstanding issues surrounding her role as director.”
The CU Independent reached out to Patty Limerick and the staff members mentioned in the audit, who either declined to comment or didn’t respond by the date of publishing this article.
Contact CU Independent Senior News Editor Isabella Hammond at email@example.com.