CU-Boulder moves to fire philosophy professor accused of retaliating against sexual assault victim

Female student received $825,000 settlement

BOULDER, Colo. - The University of Colorado at Boulder is moving to fire a professor after paying a graduate student $825,000 to settle accusations the philosophy professor retaliated against her for reporting a sexual assault by a graduate student, our partners at the Daily Camera reported Thursday.

Chancellor Phil DiStefano recently issued a notice of intent to dismiss associate professor David Barnett, Boulder campus spokesman Ryan Huff told the newspaper.

The move to fire Barnett occurs after CU has come under federal investigation for 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.

Barnett's attorney, Brian Moore, told the Daily Camera that in taking action against Barnett, CU is "holding up his scalp" to show the rest of the philosophy department the university's tough stance on misconduct described in the report. Moore said Barnett will fight his firing under claims that the university violated his First Amendment right to free speech and the Colorado statute that protects whistleblowers.

According to a notice of claim obtained by the Daily Camera, a female graduate student said she was sexually assaulted by a male philosophy doctoral student at an off-campus party in August 2012. Such claims are required by state laws before someone can sue Colorado public institutions.

In late October 2012, the victim reported the assault to CU's Office of Discrimination and Harassment. Before the female student reported the assault, the university -- unaware of the alleged incident -- had hired the male student as an instructor, Huff told the newspaper.

While such proceedings and their results are confidential, the victim's notice of claim and a Boulder Police Department report show that the investigation found the man had violated the university's sexual harassment policy, the Daily Camera reported.

The man was suspended from his job as an instructor during the investigation, the police report said. The university later decided not to renew his instructor contract, Huff told the newspaper.

The man was never arrested or charged.

After the Office of Discrimination and Harassment concluded its case, professor Barnett launched his own investigation into the woman's reported sexual assault, according to the victim's notice of claim.

The Daily Camera reported that the notice of claim states that Barnett told faculty members, university administrators and students that the victim was "sexually promiscuous" and that she falsified the report of the assault. Barnett, the document alleged, wrote that the victim fabricated the sexual assault to cover up the fact that she was cheating on her boyfriend.

Barnett also wrote sent a 38-page report about the female student and sent to CU leaders.   

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.

The university's settlement of $825,000 with the victim was finalized Tuesday. The victim received $520,000 from the settlement and her attorneys at Washington, D.C.-based firm Katz, Marshall and Banks received $305,000. The settlement does not constitute an admission of liability or fault on the part of the university.

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