Lecturer challenges sexual harassment finding over paper on fruit bats

 

A LECTURER has claimed before the High Court he did not receive a fair hearing during an inquiry into sexual harassment allegations made against him after he showed a woman colleague a scientific paper about the sex life of fruit bats.

Dr Dylan Evans (43), who lectures in behavioural science at University College Cork, has complained the inquiry failed to take into account or interview another woman who, he claims, was also present when he showed the paper to his school of medicine colleague, Dr Salerno Kennedy.

In judicial review proceedings which opened yesterday, Dr Evans is seeking orders quashing the inquiry findings and subsequent sanctions imposed on him, including a two-year period of monitoring and training. UCC has denied his claims.

The court heard yesterday that Dr Kennedy had complained she was distressed and upset when Dr Evans showed her the paper entitled Fellatio by Fruit Bats Prolongs Copulation Time on November 2nd, 2009. She also complained this was not the first time Dr Evans had raised sexual subjects with her.

In an affidavit, Dr Evans said it was not unusual for him to drop into Dr Kennedy’s office to discuss research and social topics. In this instance, he was interested in correlations between human and animal behaviour patterns which may suggest an evolutionary origin to certain human behaviours, he said.

Two external investigators who investigated Dr Kennedy’s complaints had found last February the November 2009 incident fell within the definition of sexual harassment under the university’s “duty of respect and right to dignity” policy. They rejected her complaints about the period before November 2nd.

Opening the case yesterday, Brian Kennedy, representing Dr Evans, said his client had a “fairly sparkling” career. He was on a two-year probationary period which new appointees to permanent lectureships were required to serve before they became established.

Dr Evans was claiming he was not alone with Dr Kennedy, as she had claimed, when the article was shown. He claims a Dr Patricia Chalmers was also there but this significant fact had not been dealt with by the investigators.

The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, said yesterday he would have to see where responsibility for the “evidential shortfall” in relation to the calling of Dr Chalmers for interview would lie.

Dr Evans said one of the investigators, former Labour Court chairman John Horgan, had described the fruit bat article as “smutty” and seemed unwilling to accept the piece was a serious paper.

Mr Horgan, in an affidavit, denied he had described the article as smutty and disagreed with Dr Evans’s claim there was another person in the room when Dr Evans showed it to Dr Kennedy.