Why Texas A&M archaeologist Filipe Castro was fired: Documents from the Texas Public Information Act

Last January, Texas A&M University fired marine archaeologist Filipe Castro, after receiving numerous complaints about his conduct. The complaints included allegations of sexual harassment, which I reported on back in 2019 (along with accusations against several other anthropology department members), as well as political comments Castro had made to students about Donald Trump and related issues.

After Castro's termination, I requested, and received, copies of the investigative report and other related documents from TAMU's public records office. With apologies for the delay--caused by my being absorbed in a defamation suit against me filed by another archaeologist--I am publishing those documents now.

Full disclosure: Castro has begun harassing me on Facebook messenger about my reporting on him, calling me a liar and expressing glee that I was sued; he apparently had not heard about the outcome of the case. But his harassment has prompted me to public these documents, which ideally I would have done months ago.)

Before I get to that, let me repeat what I published earlier about Castro's conduct back in 2019, based on discussions with a number of sources:

"Filipe Castro: Extreme sexism, harassment, unethical behavior.

Filipe Castro, a maritime archaeologist at TAMU, is accused by multiple colleagues of some of the most blatantly sexist behavior I have seen in a university professor. Sources say that Castro would make crude anti-Semitic jokes during his lectures, along with sexist remarks. He told some male students that he only hires "hot girls" as research assistants. On another occasion, he declared that "American girls are extremely dumb and only good for blowjobs."

Castro also directed his sexism directly at female students in the department, reportedly telling them that it was a "man's world" and they should just accept it. He often attempted to intimidate, humiliate, and demean female students; his behavior was an open secret in the department.

Multiple sources also attest that Castro attempted on several occasions to appropriate the work of students for his own purposes and credit. He was also extremely abusive to students under his tutelage, especially women. I cannot say more about this, to protect sources, but this behavior has been described to me in detail and there is no ambiguity about its extremely unethical nature.

As in almost all the cases described in this post, department leaders, including the department chair, were aware of this abusive behavior but Castro was apparently never sanctioned for it. Says one former student: "Instead of protecting us and punishing illegal behavior, they made him a full professor." And former students who had to endure abuse from Castro say they don't trust the university to do anything about it now; they still fear retaliation even though they have left TAMU. "It is still very painful, and I am still afraid," a former student says.

I don't know how many dozens of times I have heard similar statements from former graduate students from university departments all over the world."

TAMU's 2021 conclusions

Let's start with the university's investigation of Castro's conduct (all of these links lead to pdf files from the university's records production to me.)

This is a 126 page document dated October 20, 2020, which includes numerous redactions apparently designed to protect student privacy. This and other documents make clear that there were two main threads of the investigation: Complaints that Castro was virulently anti-religion and anti-Trump and other right-wingers; and complaints that Castro made numerous sexist comments to students in class. Some examples:

"In discussions with Dr. Castro it is clear that he has a deep-seated resentment towards religion and

in particular the Catholic Church. It is also clear that he uses language that some may interpret as

vulgar and interjects his own stance and personal situation in those comments."

"Of particular note were comments in regard to gender and sex. Students mentioned highly

inappropriate comments from Dr. Castro about male and female genitals. One reported Dr. Castro

saying he does not mind if ladies’ “pussies” are hanging out of their shorts because where he came

from there were nude beaches. Another reported comments that Dr. Castro wishes he was not

circumcised so he could enjoy sex more. Dr. Castro also commented in that class that he did not

have his son circumcised so he could enjoy sex more.

"In addition, comments on politicians were often times grossly inappropriate. Two of those were

that Dr. Castro stated in class that he “would cut off Jeff Sessions head and play soccer with it”

and that he would “hang Trump by Biden’s entrails”.

In terms of the sexist behavior, the investigation relied heavily on my blog posts about Castro for leads to conduct its own inquiry. The investigators cite my lack of cooperation with the inquiry, which I tried to explain was due to my desire to protect the identities of my sources; but the investigators clearly interpreted that as a belligerent attitude on my part.

In the end, the investigators found that Castro had clearly violated university rules, concluding as follows:

"As discussion above, Dr. Castro appears to have crossed the line and violated the rules. In addition

to demeaning students who did not agree with his stances on religious matters, his introduction of

hanging Trump with Biden’s entrails and playing soccer with a politician’s head certainly has no

relation to the subject. His inappropriate comments about male and female genitals were

unprofessional and disrespectful. Many students commented on the fact they stopped going to class

as Dr. Castro always went on rants and tangents against politics and religion and that all you needed

to pass the class was already available from old tests online.

This investigation of this issue is now forwarded to the Dean of Faculties for review of Dr. Castro’s

unprofessional and inappropriate behavior."

Emails, disciplinary findings and intention to dismiss, Castro's letter of resignation.

The investigative file included 185 pages of emails between Castro, his department chair, university officials, and others, which served as background for the inquiry. I will not comment on them here.

On January 7 of this year, Mark Weichold, TAMU's Interim Provost and Executive Vice President, wrote to Castro to inform him of the university's intention to dismiss him from his tenure position, citing violations of a number of university policies.

And on January 18, Castro wrote to anthropology department head Daryl de Ruiter, tendering his resignation--on the condition that the university did not dismiss him for cause.

While this last document indicates that de Ruiter accepted Castro's resignation, according to local news reports Castro was nevertheless fired by the university. (My queries to the university press office to clarify whether Castro was fired or allowed to resign went unanswered.)

So there you have it. It is clear from these documents that Castro's political statements, which made him a target of right-wingers (some of whom tried to enlist me in their cause) were one important reason for his departure from the university; but his sexist statements and behavior was another. 

In a Facebook message today, Castro told me that he is "enjoying my retirement immensely, away from resentful witch sniffers like you!"

I think we can all be thankful that he is no longer teaching students. Time is up for abusers.

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