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.