Fruit bat sex lecturer wins case against unfair penalty
Published 02/12/2010 | 05:00
THE penalties imposed on a university lecturer who showed a female colleague an academic paper on the sex life of fruit bats were too harsh, a court ruled yesterday.
The High Court agreed that Dr Dylan Evans should have been admonished or given a verbal warning after sexual harassment allegations were made against him.
But a judge ruled that the president of University College Cork had gone too far in ordering Dr Evans to undergo counselling and two years of monitoring.
Yesterday, Dr Evans succeeded in quashing the sanctions handed down -- but the behavioural science lecturer faces disciplinary proceedings over alleged breaches of confidentiality.
The president of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns ruled that the sanction imposed by the university was disproportionate and the matter should now go back to UCC president Dr Michael Murphy, who imposed the sanctions.
A decision, arising from the sanctions, by the head of the school of medicine not to recommend Dr Evans as an 'established' lecturer made the sanction 'grossly' disproportionate, the judge added.
Dr Evans brought judicial review proceedings seeking to quash the findings of a two-person external investigation into the allegations by Dr Rossana Salerno Kennedy, and to quash subsequent sanctions. UCC denied his claims.
The case centred on an incident on November 2, 2009, when Dr Evans was passing by Dr Kennedy's office and showed her a scientific paper entitled "Fellatio by Fruit Bats Prolongs Copulation Time".
Dr Kennedy made a formal complaint. The external investigation found that while Dr Evans had no intention to offend, the incident fell within the definition of sexual harassment under the university's policy on 'Duty of Respect and Right to Dignity'.
Following a two-day hearing, the judge declined to quash the investigation findings, but said he was quashing the sanctions.
He also awarded costs to Dr Evans who said he was "delighted with the outcome" and was "looking forward to putting this matter behind me and getting on with the job".
UCC welcomed the decision that its investigation into the complaint of sexual harassment stood, and Dr Evans' challenge to its findings was rejected.
The college said it would give further consideration to the sanction on Dr Evans.
Disciplinary proceedings over alleged breaches of confidentiality by Dr Evans would proceed, the university added.
In his judgment, the judge noted the scientific article complained of contained nothing of a lurid or graphic nature or anything photographic.
It was awarded an 'Ig Nobel' award for papers that may have humourous content as well as serious material and that was the case, the judge noted.
Dr Evans produced the article to a number of other people that day, the judge said.
Dr Evans's case was that Dr Kennedy greeted the paper with amusement and he was unaware of any offence having been taken, the judge said.