Philip Leis, Faculty


An assistant professor of Anthropology and the only woman in her department when she was hired in 1968, Louise Lamphere was denied tenure in 1974. The Anthropology Department claimed that her scholarship was theoretically weak. Lamphere claimed she was the victim of sex discrimination and argued that the small number of women on the Brown faculty was evidence of a larger pattern of discrimination. After unsuccessfully pursuing an internal appeals process, on May 10, 1975 Lamphere filed a lawsuit in United States District Court.

Under the leadership of a new President, Howard Swearer, the University settled the case before trial, entering in September 1977 into an historic consent decree designed “to achieve on behalf of women full representativeness with respect to faculty employment at Brown.” Brown agreed to set up an Affirmative Action Monitoring Committee charged with overseeing the processes departments used to hire, promote, and tenure faculty in order to ensure fairness; evaluating searches for inclusivity; and monitoring progress toward full representation of women on the faculty. The Affirmative Action Monitoring Committee was in existence from 1978 to 1992 when by mutual consent the consent decree was vacated.

Conducted in 2014 as part of the Pembroke Center’s Louise Lamphere vs. Brown University exhibit for Brown’s 250th anniversary, this interview highlights Philip Leis, director of the anthropology department at the time of the case. Leis shares his educational and professional background and the reasons why he hired Lamphere and subsequently denied her tenure. Leis describes what is was like being a defendant, giving his deposition, and having his personal correspondence submitted as evidence.


Recorded on April 12, 2014 at Brown University, Providence, RI
Interviewed by Amy Goldstein

Suggested Chicago style citation: Leis, Philip. Interview. By Amy Goldstein. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. April 12, 2014.


Philip Leis received his B.A. from Antioch College in 1954 and his PhD. From Northwestern University in 1962. He joined the department of anthropology at Brown University in 1962 and became director of the department in 1967. His research interests focused on the history of anthropological theory, cultural change, associations, and identity. He conducted his research primarily in Nigeria, Cameroon, and Zimbabwe. Leis is now Professor Emeritus of anthropology since retiring in 2012.