Lecturer fights sanctions after showing colleague bat-sex article
Published 17/05/2010 | 05:00
A UNIVERSITY lecturer disciplined after he showed a female colleague an article about the sex life of fruit bats is demanding his sanctions be reversed.
Dr Dylan Evans, who lectures in behavioural science at University College Cork (UCC) School of Medicine, says the university president Professor Michael Murphy has imposed harsh sanctions on him for showing an article from a peer-reviewed scientific journal to a colleague.
Now, UCC is at the centre of an embarrassing international debate on political correctness.
The university refused to officially comment on his claim that a two-year period of intensive monitoring and counselling had been imposed. But a copy of the president's letter posted online confirms the sanctions.
A UCC spokesman agreed that an investigation had been held into an allegation of sexual harassment. The investigation was completed and the spokesman would not make any further comment.
The article about how fruit bats prolong copulation via oral sex was published last year, and Dr Evans said he showed it to more than a dozen colleagues on the same day, one of whom complained. He said he had been engaged in an ongoing debate about the relevance of evolutionary biology to human behaviour, and about the dubiousness of many claims for human uniqueness.
The Irish Independent has learned that the female colleague made two complaints about Dr Evans. One was about dealings and interactions with Dr Evans prior to November last year, and the other was about showing her the article.
The first was rejected but the second was upheld, although it was accepted that he showed her the article as a joke with sexual innuendo and it was not his intention to cause offence.
However, it was considered reasonable for her to be offended by being presented with the article while she was alone in her office.
The president then wrote to Dr Evans saying that he was requesting him to engage in training and counselling and to complete a period of monitoring and appraisal.
"Behaviour of this type is utterly unacceptable and should any further complaint of sexual harassment made against you be upheld, I will have no hesitation but to proceed with the university's disciplinary procedures," he wrote.
Dr Evans, who was born in England in 1966, launched an online petition demanding that the sanctions be reversed. The petition was referred to last week in the influential 'Huffington Post' website and has spread rapidly on the internet.
DCU president Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski wrote on his popular blog that there were 5,000 websites offering a view on the issue.
"I have read 30 or so articles brimming with righteous indignation. We should perhaps be just a little slow to do that. We haven't heard the college's side of the story. We don't know what it was, or what underlying circumstances existed, that caused the colleague to whom the article was shown to react the way they did," he wrote.
"Though I must admit I am rather curious about it all -- so come on, UCC, get moving on this! And fruit bats: have fun!"