For only the fourth time in University of Colorado history, Boulder campus leaders have begun the process of firing a tenured faculty member after paying a graduate student $825,000 to settle accusations the philosophy professor retaliated against her for reporting a sexual assault by a fellow graduate student.
Chancellor Phil DiStefano recently issued a notice of intent to dismiss associate professor David Barnett, Boulder campus spokesman Ryan Huff confirmed to the Daily Camera.
Barnett, who is not the alleged sexual assailant, is accused of compiling a 38-page report painting the victim as “sexually promiscuous” and alleging she falsified the report of the assault, according to a notice of intent to sue CU filed by the victim last month.
The move to fire Barnett, who has taught in the philosophy department since 2005, comes as CU already was under federal investigation for possible violations of Title IX, the federal gender-equity law. It also comes six months after a scathing report detailed sexual harassment, bullying and other unprofessional conduct within the philosophy department . . .
The victim, who declined to speak with the Camera through her attorney, Debra Katz, filed the complaint because Barnett “smeared her reputation” and she wanted to prevent something similar from happening to future victims who report sexual misconduct, Katz said.
“She felt it was very important to bring that issue to the attention of the appropriate parties within the university and not only protect her own rights, but to ensure that other people who come forward and report serious Title IX violations are not retaliated against,” Katz said.
Katz said that if the university tolerated retaliation, it would have a “chilling effect” on anyone wishing to come forward to report a violation.
She added that while her client did not ask for Barnett to be dismissed, the decision sends a “very strong message” that the university is serious about disciplining people who violate Title IX.
While not speaking about the allegations against Barnett specifically, Huff said it’s important for investigations into possible university policy violations to be conducted by professionals.
“We have established mechanisms with trained professionals who are in charge of conducting investigations,” he said. “Having non-trained, non-professional people conducting unauthorized investigations is not appropriate.”
For those who are unclear on how retaliation in the context of a Title IX complaint is itself a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX, I recommend reading through the SCOTUS decision on Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education as well as the ‘Dear Colleague’ letter from the Office for Civil Rights of April 2013.