Univ. of Colorado seeks dismissal of tenured professor after he called alleged sex assault victim 'promiscuous'
The University of Colorado (CU) is seeking to dismiss a tenured philosophy professor after he independently published a 38-page report painting an alleged sexual assault victim as “sexually promiscuous.”
The alleged assailant is a doctoral student, said to be in his mid-30’s and also in the philosophy department. He is accused of assaulting the female at an off-campus party back in August 2012. He was then hired to work at the university that fall before the victim reported her claim to CU’s Office of Discrimination and Harassment (ODH) two months later in October.
"Every male member of the CU philosophy department already has had his reputation damaged as a result of the administration's selective release of information."
The identities of the alleged assailant and the female victim were not released because no formal arrests were made.
The case’s proceedings are held confidential, but according to the victim’s notice of claim and the Boulder Police Department report, the male student was found in violation of the university’s sexual harassment policy and was suspended from his position. University officials later decided not to renew his contract.
Professor David Barnett was said to be a close mentor to the male student and didn’t feel the investigation sustained enough substantial evidence to let the student go. Barnett felt that it was his moral obligation to express his concerns about the case and did so by writing a 38-page report painting the victim as “sexually promiscuous” and accusing her of falsifying her claims to cover up cheating on her boyfriend.
"Because ODH operates under a cloak of secrecy and without due process, professor Barnett was concerned that this likely was not an isolated incident,” Brian Moore, Barnett’s attorney told The Daily Camera. “[He] felt ethically obligated to do what he could to stop this abuse of authority, and hopefully in the process correct what he views as a miscarriage of justice against his former student."
After receiving the report, the university hired Denver attorney David Fine to conduct an independent investigation of the case. This secondary investigation cost the university a hefty $148,589.15.
The notice of claim states that Barnett shared his thoughts about the female student’s sexual history, marital relationship and sexual behavior the night of the alleged assault with students and faculty members.
The female student thought about suing the university but decided not to go through with it. The case in its entirety caused the student “emotional pain and suffering, depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation, damage to educational career and reputational harm.” The overall damage would cost the university a total of $2 million, according to the victim’s lawyers.
The university finalized a settlement of $825,000 Thursday. $520,000 will go to the victim and the remaining $305,000 will go to her attorneys.
"She felt it was very important to bring that issue to the attention of the appropriate parties within the university,” said Debra Katz, the female’s attorney. “[N]ot only [to] protect her own rights, but to ensure that other people who come forward and report serious Title IX violations are not retaliated against.”
Barnett will fight his removal on the basis of practicing his First Amendment right to free speech and Colorado’s statute that protects whistleblowers.
"Every male member of the CU philosophy department already has had his reputation damaged as a result of the administration's selective release of information," Moore said. "Now, even though professor Barnett is not accused of harassing anyone, the administration is attempting to make him the scapegoat."
The female student has decided to stay at the university despite the circumstances.
"We must honor her trust by ensuring not only that she has every opportunity to succeed, but also by taking the steps that will enable every student to thrive in a community free from discrimination and harassment," university’s chancellor Philip DiStefano wrote in a statement about the settlement. "This settlement is part of our ongoing, intense effort to combat gender discrimination and sexual harassment across the campus."
The case coincides with other recent issues within CU philosophy department, including a federal investigation of possible Title IX violations and a detailed report claiming alleged sexual harassment, bullying and other unprofessional misconduct.
Barnett has been with the university since 2005, and if fired, will be the fourth tenured professor ever dismissed by the university in 138 years since its foundation.
“The Committee's review of dismissals for cause shall proceed as expeditiously as possible,” CU Spokesperson Ryan Huff told Campus Reform. “Hearings should be concluded and recommendations made to the president within 80 days after referral to the dismissal for cause panel by the Committee Chair.”
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