University of Denver: Sexual Harassment Finding Violates Professor’s Academic Freedom in the Classroom

Category: Free Speech
Schools: University of Denver

In April 2011, veteran professor Arthur Gilbert was investigated for sexual harassment after two students anonymously submitted complaints stemming from his course “The Domestic and International Consequences of the Drug War.” Gilbert’s dean, Ambassador Christopher R. Hill, suspended Gilbert from campus while he was investigated by DU’s Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity (ODEO) and Department of Human Resources. ODEO found that Gilbert would have created a hostile environment if his class had been a regular workplace, but acknowledged the special characteristics of the classroom environment and deferred judgment. Hill declared Gilbert guilty, however, without considering Gilbert’s academic freedom or the subject matter and context of the course, and mandated that Gilbert attend “sensitivity training.” Although a faculty panel criticized DU for violating Gilbert’s academic freedom, DU Provost Gregg Kvistad upheld Hill’s findings. Despite letters from FIRE and the DU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, DU has refused to reopen the case.

  • Reload and Fight

    December 13, 2011

    A University of Denver professor plans to teach the same course next spring on the domestic and international consequences of the drug war that led to two anonymous student complaints, resulting in his being suspended this year for more than 100 days. The complaints centered on a few sexual references that civil liberties groups say were completely harmless and should never have led to any action being taken against the professor. Following the suspension, the course was taught by three other instructors, including a graduate student. That decision by university administrators against Arthur N. Gilbert, associate professor at the Josef […]

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  • College ignoring professor’s freedom

    November 28, 2011

    by Bob Kellogg OneNewsNow The University of Denver is refusing to reconsider its violation of the academic freedom of a professor who has been teaching for 50 years. Professor Arthur Gilbert was placed on administrative leave after anonymous complaints were filed about his making statements in class that constituted sexual harassment. But even though his peers conducted an investigation that found the charges were without merit, the school refuses to reconsider its decision. “The university actually declined to take into account the fact that his academic peers did not believe that he had done anything wrong,” notes Robert Sibley of the Foundation […]

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  • The End to My ‘Sexy’ Academic Career

    July 26, 2013

    Madeline Gootman is a FIRE summer intern. As most of my friends will tell you, I am an outspoken young woman when it comes to matters of sexuality and sexual health. I recently joined the Vanderbilt Peer Sex Educators, an organization of students formed to increase the campus dialogue surrounding sexual health. In addition to my extracurriculars surrounding sexuality (I also work at the Women’s Center on campus), I am majoring in Women and Gender Studies. After hearing about my very feminist list of extracurriculars, a reasonable person might assume that I would not have a problem with the May […]

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  • U. of Denver Hides Behind Title IX to Justify Persecution of Veteran Professor

    January 11, 2013

    Throughout the maddening case of veteran University of Denver (DU) Professor Arthur Gilbert, the DU administration has employed a “trust us” defense when questioned about its repeated, well-documented violations of Gilbert’s rights to free speech, academic freedom, and due process. Gilbert was suspended from the DU campus for more than 100 days and found guilty of sexual harassment based on the content of his graduate-course lectures. DU has refused to consider the academic context of the case over the objections of FIRE, DU’s Faculty Review Committee, the American Association of University Professors (both the national organization and the DU chapter), […]

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  • DU ‘Clarion’ Highlights University’s Appearance in ‘Unlearning Liberty’

    November 8, 2012

    The Clarion, the student newspaper at the University of Denver (DU), has published an article noting the inclusion of DU professor Arthur Gilbert’s case in FIRE president Greg Lukianoff’s new book Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. Given the outrageousness of Gilbert’s treatment by DU, that inclusion is well deserved. Clarion reporter Anita Balakrishnan does a good job explaining DU’s prosecution of Professor Gilbert for sexual harassment and the opposition it encountered. (Readers can also acquaint themselves with the case by reading this chronology.) Gilbert’s ordeal started after the submission of two anonymous complaints by students […]

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  • U of Denver Faculty Senate to Administration: Vacate Tenured Professor’s ‘Harassment’ Finding

    May 30, 2012

    For more than a year now, Professor Arthur Gilbert, a tenured professor in the University of Denver’s (DU’s) Josef Korbel School of International Studies, has been fighting for his free speech and academic freedom against DU’s gross intrusions and disregard for due process. As we first documented here in the fall, Gilbert was summarily removed from the DU campus after two students submitted anonymous complaints that he had created a hostile environment while teaching his graduate course “The Domestic and International Consequences of the Drug War.” In ultimately finding Gilbert guilty, DU disregarded a scathing report from DU’s Faculty Review […]

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  • Univ. of Denver Fails to Scare Prof Away from Teaching Drug War Course

    January 11, 2012

    Cory Lamz, Editor-in-Chief of the University of Denver (DU) student newspaper The Clarion, writes this week, as FIRE reported recently, that international studies professor Arthur Gilbert will again teach his course on “The Domestic and International Consequences of the Drug War.” This is no small thing, given that when Gilbert—whose service to DU spans roughly 50 years—taught the graduate-level course last year, two students submitted anonymous complaints of sexual harassment over the allegedly sexualized nature of the course topics and teaching, despite the ample warning given on the course’s syllabus. Gilbert was never allowed to see the complaints for himself. […]

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  • University of Denver Calls Teaching ‘Sexual Harassment,’ Ignores Faculty; AAUP Launches Inquiry

    December 12, 2011

    DENVER, December 12, 2011—University of Denver Professor Arthur N. Gilbert is daring to teach his “Drug War” course again after the university violated his academic freedom and suspended him earlier this year, deeming his teaching about sexual issues to be “sexual harassment.” Over the objections of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a faculty committee, and the University of Denver chapter of the American Association of University Professors (DU AAUP), DU refuses to correct its error. On November 30, the national AAUP opened an inquiry into the case. “To remove a professor from the university without any hearing on the […]

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  • University of Denver Professor’s Plight Featured in ‘The Denver Post’

    December 1, 2011

    FIRE has been closely following the case of University of Denver (DU) professor Arthur Gilbert, who was investigated and found guilty of sexual harassment after two anonymous students complained about the content of his course, “The Domestic and International Consequences of the Drug War.” In The Denver Post yesterday, reporter Kevin Smith highlighted the due process and academic freedom concerns raised by DU’s handling of this case. He quotes FIRE’s own Peter Bonilla on the subject: “[T]he University of Denver was not interested in the academic freedom issues of his case,” said Peter Bonilla, assistant director of FIRE’s individual rights […]

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  • Concerns raised about academic freedom over University of Denver professor’s punishment

    November 30, 2011

    Others at DU come to defense of punished professor by Kevin Simpson The Denver Post   A charge of sexual harassment that resulted in the suspension of a University of Denver professor last spring has spiraled into an argument over academic freedom that has attracted national attention. The school found that Arthur Gilbert, a tenured professor at DU’s Korbel School of International Studies, “created a sexual harassment hostile environment” in a class he taught for more than 20 years called “The Domestic and International Consequences of the Drug War.” Responding to complaints from two graduate students, the university investigated nine […]

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  • University of Denver Student Speaks out Against Punishment of Professor

    November 21, 2011

    The punishment of Professor Arthur Gilbert, a University of Denver (DU) faculty member with more than 50 years of teaching experience, has provoked much outrage from the community. The fact pattern of his case makes this reaction understandable. Gilbert was suspended from the DU campus and investigated on the basis of two anonymous complaints about the allegedly sexualized nature of his course on the history of America’s drug wars and the negative effects of “purity crusades” (this content was made clear in the course’s syllabus). The investigation, conducted by human resources administrators, found that in a regular workplace, his discussion […]

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  • University of Denver Refuses to Reconsider Violation of 50-Year Veteran Professor’s Academic Freedom

    November 18, 2011

    Over the objections of FIRE, a faculty committee, and the University of Denver Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (DU AAUP), the University of Denver (DU) has refused to reconsider its violation of Professor Arthur N. Gilbert’s academic freedom. DU had suspended Gilbert earlier this year after receiving anonymous complaints of sexual harassment about his class, but all of the comments in question were based on academic material relevant to the class. Although DU claims in a letter to FIRE that it “carefully” investigated the claims, DU never evaluated Gilbert’s comments in the context of the classroom environment. Professor Gilbert is […]

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  • University of Denver AAUP Echoes Call to Restore Academic Freedom to DU

    November 15, 2011

    In a letter to the University of Denver’s provost and president on November 12, 17 members of the University of Denver chapter of the American Association of University Professors (DU AAUP) echoed FIRE’s concern for academic freedom in the case of DU professor Arthur Gilbert, whom DU found guilty of sexual harassment for relevant classroom comments that apparently were never investigated from an academic perspective. That’s really important: context matters a huge amount. There are a lot of things you can and should say in a class about moral taboos that probably have no reason to come up in, say, […]

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  • Carroll: Prof’s rights disregarded by DU

    November 5, 2011

    by Vincent Carroll The Denver Post   Shouldn’t a fellow who’s been on the job for 50 years — and who’s been touted occasionally by his university employer in public promotions — be allowed to tell his story before anonymous complaints drive him from the classroom? Shouldn’t he be questioned first even if the complaints allege, according to the dean of his school, that he’d created “a sexual harassment hostile environment” in his classroom? In fact, shouldn’t his version of events be especially relevant under the circumstances, given the damage such allegations could inflict on his reputation? University of Denver […]

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  • University of Denver Attacks Academic Freedom With Punishment of 50-Year Veteran Professor

    October 27, 2011

    The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Peter Schmidt reports this week on a deeply troubling case involving a tenured professor at the University of Denver. DU Provost Gregg Kvistad has largely affirmed the punishment of Professor Arthur N. Gilbert over the objections of a faculty committee, which cited serious concerns about academic freedom and due process in DU’s suspension of the professor after receiving anonymous complaints alleging that he created a hostile sexual environment in his class. Having followed Gilbert’s grievance for several weeks now, we had hoped that DU would pay heed to the concerns of the faculty committee reviewing […]

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