Academic freedom stifled, alleges lecturer censured over showing paper on bat sex

A UCC lecturer has claimed the upholding of a complaint of sexual harassment made against him over showing a female colleague…

A UCC lecturer has claimed the upholding of a complaint of sexual harassment made against him over showing a female colleague a research paper on the sexual activities of bats is an example of how academic freedom is being stifled.

Dr Dylan Evans, a lecturer in behavioural science at the school of medicine in UCC, said: “If we cannot discuss scientific articles about topics directly related to our own research, published in leading peer-reviewed international journals with colleagues in the same department, this bodes very ill for informed inquiry and debate.”

The controversy stems from Dr Evans’s decision to show a female colleague a research paper which found that fruit bats perform oral sex on each other.

Documents posted on social media websites state the woman complained that Dr Evans entered her office uninvited on November 2nd last and showed her a paper entitled “Fellatio by Fruit Bats Prolongs Copulation Time”.

She said Dr Evans invited her to read and comment on the paper, but she felt harassed by his behaviour which she considered inappropriate and offensive. “I felt hurt and disgusted and therefore decided to make a complaint,” she said in her letter of complaint.

The woman added it wasn’t the first time Dr Evans raised sexual subjects with her, and alleged that a week previously he entered her office uninvited and told her he admired Casanova because he had slept with hundreds of women.

Dr Evans told the human resources department at UCC there was nothing premeditated about him going into the woman’s office and showing the paper, and it did not occur to him she might find it offensive as it was a formal publication in a scientific journal.

He confirmed he visited her office with the Casanova diaries and told her he was reading them for lectures, but he denied he had said he admired Casanova because he slept with hundreds of women.

UCC’s human resources department ordered an inquiry. External experts Sheena Clohessy and John Horgan interviewed both parties and found considerable conflict of evidence. The investigators found the actions of Dr Evans up until November 2nd did not constitute sexual harassment and said the complaints by the female lecturer were not malicious, but upheld the complaint over the November 2nd incident with the paper on the bats, adding “it was not Dr Evans’s intention to cause offence”.

UCC president Dr Michael Murphy asked Dr Evans to engage in counselling and to complete a period of monitoring, and warned disciplinary procedures would be invoked if any further complaint of sexual harassment was upheld against him in future. Dr Evans disputed that a finding of sexual harassment had been upheld.