We the undersigned demand that University College Cork (UCC) change its policy on harassment so that it cannot be used any longer to limit academic freedom and stifle debate. We also demand that the President of UCC, Professor Michael Murphy, reverse his decision to sanction a lecturer, Dr Dylan Evans, for doing nothing more than showing an article from a peer-reviewed scientific journal to a colleague.
The article was about fellatio in fruit bats: You can read it online at:
It was also covered extensively in the international press. Dr Evans had been engaged in an ongoing debate with the colleague in question about the relevance of evolutionary biology to human behaviour, and in particular about the dubiousness of many claims for human uniqueness. He showed the article to the colleague in the presence of a third person, and to many other colleagues on the same day, none of whom took offense. Nevertheless the colleague to whom Dr Evans showed the article complained to HR that the article was upsetting.
HR launched a formal investigation. Despite the fact that external investigators concluded that Dr Evans was not guilty of harassment, Professor Murphy has imposed a two year period of intensive monitoring and counselling on him, which may result in his application for tenure being denied.
We find the harsh treatment of Dr Evans to be an explicit threat to intellectual discourse and academic freedom at UCC. Unless Professor Murphy reverses his unwise decision, academic staff at UCC will have to fear that if they show a peer-reviewed, scientific article to a colleague, which that colleague finds even mildly upsetting, then they will be punished, even if it is explicitly established by outside Investigators that there is no intention to cause offence.
It will be even more worrying for academics at UCC to note that it will not be taken into account that the complainant in such a case does not exhibit any signs of offence at the time and does not make any effort at the time to communicate to the person showing the scientific article any offence was taken.
We find that the action of the Professor Michael Murphy seriously damages the reputation of UCC and strikes a serious blow at the heart of academic freedom. We therefore demand that the President of UCC remove the sanctions from Dr Evans, and also that he initiate a full and frank review of the University's policy on harassment so that it may not be abused in future to block normal academic debate.
For further information:
1. Read the Blog posts
2. Read the original complaint
Discussing sex in a biological, scientific, and non-personal way should be completely open and not grounds for punishment within academic environments. It looks like the HR department was used as a weapon against Dr. Evans by his colleague. This shouldn't happen and is an abuse of a safety net.
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