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 Committee which attacked the prosecution on both academic freedom and due process grounds. Indeed, DU seems to have taken no time at all to consider the academic freedom arguments in Gilbert’s case or the academic context of his class lectures and materials. For an in-depth explanation of the case, check out our earlier writings and peruse the materials we’ve posted on our case page.
From the beginning, DU anthropology professor Dean Saitta, also co-president of the American Association of University Professors’ Colorado Conference, has been one of Gilbert’s most tireless advocates on the ground at DU. Saitta was one of the members of the Faculty Review Committee and submitted a separate memo with the FRC report urging Gilbert’s complete exoneration. At the most recent meeting of DU’s faculty senate, the senate voted on a motion introduced by Saitta, urging DU to vacate its finding against Gilbert.
Here is the text of the motion:
Given that the academic context of Professor Gilbert’s classroom speech was never considered during the investigation that found him guilty of sexual harassment, we urge that the administration vacate the finding of sexual harassment and remove this stain from Professor Gilbert’s official personnel record.
Saitta informs us that at the May 25 meeting, by a vote of 22-11 (with 11 abstentions), the senate voted in favor of the motion. We’re pleased to see this result. With such disregard for Gilbert’s rights (which also attracted criticism from the national AAUP), DU should have expected nothing less. Hopefully, the administration will vacate the finding and finally take academic freedom seriously.
Peter Bonilla joined FIRE as a Program Associate in 2008 and became Assistant Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program in 2011. As Assistant Director he manages FIRE’s significant caseload, writes frequently for FIRE’s blog, The Torch, and has lectured to student groups and at student conferences around the country.
Used with the permission of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.