You are viewing the content for Wednesday 19 May 2010

College chief rejects case’s web campaign

A UNIVERSITY president has rejected an internet campaign which says sanctions against a lecturer for sexual harassment are a breach of academic freedom.

Dr Dylan Evans has been told by University college Cork president Dr Michael Murphy to undergo counselling and his behaviour at work must be monitored for two years after external investigators found that he had sexually harassed a female colleague. The complaint arose when he went to her office in the university last November and showed her an academic article about research which found that female fruit bats perform oral sex on their partners during intercourse.

While the complaint was upheld, on the grounds that the female academic was entitled to be offended by a joke with sexual innuendo, he and his union contend that academic freedoms in third-level colleges entitle a lecturer to share academic research papers with colleagues.

The matter has become the subject of online debate and more than 3,000 signatures, many appearing to be from internationally renowned academics, have been added to a petition calling for the sanctions to be reversed under the heading: "Stop UCC from abusing its harassment policy to limit academic freedom."

In his daily blog, Dublin City University president Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski wrote the documentation relating to the case posted online does not wholly support the case being made by Dr Evans.

"Whatever the merits of the case may be – and I still have an open mind – it is not about academic freedom. Academic freedom is about the right to develop, defend and disseminate scholarly views and findings, however uncomfortable these may be to others," Prof von Prondzynski wrote. "But there are still limits," he said.

He echoed concerns aired in UCC’s statement on Monday, about the possible implications for future victims of harassment of having the details of the case – including copies of Dr Evans’s colleague’s letter of complaint and the investigation report – published online.

The Irish Federation of University Teachers has said the punishment outweighs the actions of a lecturer found by investigators not to have intentionally caused offence and who had no previous record of inappropriate behaviour at work.