Sex life of fruit bat lands lecturer in hot water

Academic who showed colleague a paper on animal’s sexual behaviour is cleared of sexual harassment but faces two years of monitoring. Hannah Fearn reports

May 17, 2010

An academic who was accused of sexual harassment after showing a female colleague a research paper on oral sex among fruit bats has been ordered to undergo a two-year “monitoring and counselling” programme despite being cleared by his university.

The treatment of Dylan Evans, lecturer in behavioural science at University College Cork, has prompted more than 2,000 supporters, among them internationally renowned scholars, to sign a petition calling on the university to change its policy on harassment.

The case stems from a paper titled “Fellatio by fruit bats prolongs copulation time”, which appeared in the journal PLoS ONE. Dr Evans showed the article to a female colleague when they were alone in her office. He said he had previously shown the paper to 10 other colleagues without causing offence.

External investigators who were appointed to examine the allegation exonerated the lecturer. However, they also found that offence had been caused, albeit unintentionally.

As a result, the university has imposed a “two-year period of monitoring and appraisal under the university’s duty of respect and ‘right to dignity’ policy”.

Dr Evans said the university’s response “flies in the face of academic freedom”.

In a statement released on 17 May, the university said it “views with the utmost gravity” the fact the confidential documentation relating to the case had been posted online.

“It is imperative, in the interests of fairness to all sides involved, and for such procedures to work effectively, that the university and the parties to procedures of this nature, maintain the confidentiality that governs them. Failure to do so impinges on the rights of staff who feel it necessary to lodge a complaint against a fellow staff member. The rights of staff who may wish to take similar action in future or defend themselves against such allegations, would also be affected, were confidentiality to be broken in such a manner.”

Dr Evans said he was not responsible for the appearance of the documents on the internet.

• See more on the story in the 20 May edition of Times Higher Education.

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