Barnett Sues CU-Boulder for $2m (updated)


David Barnett, whom the University of Colorado is moving to fire (previously), is suing the university for $2 million, claiming that university Chancellor Phil DiStefano and philosophy professor Alison Jaggar made defamatory statements about him. From The Daily Camera:

In his notice of claim, Barnett says the statements made by CU officials have damaged his reputation; impaired his liberty, due process and free speech rights; and caused emotional and mental distress and suffering. Barnett hinted that he will seek more money if the university eventually fires him. The dismissal process, which began on July 19, is confidential…

At the core of CU’s attempt to fire Barnett is a 38-page report he sent to DiStefano and CU President Bruce Benson after learning that a male graduate student had been found responsible for sexually assaulting a female graduate student…  

Barnett said he was acting as a whistleblower by reporting “willful misconduct” by the office that investigated the alleged assault. Barnett and CU have declined to provide the Camera with Barnett’s 38-page report. The woman, however, claimed that Barnett began his own investigation into the sexual assault, and talked to other members of the philosophy department about the woman’s marital history and sexual behavior. Barnett denies these accusations.

DiStefano had released a video message about the situation. “Barnett claims that DiStefano knew when he made the video that he would be destroying Barnett’s career and reputation.” Barnett claims also claims that Jaggar “encouraged the female graduate student to pursue administrative and legal action” against him and “repeatedly accused Barnett of conducting a ‘retaliatory smear campaign’ against the woman.”

The Daily Camera article is here.

Barnett’s “Notice of Claim,” which explains his rationale for the lawsuit, is here. It lays out an account of the events that formed the basis of the sexual assault claim against the student, alleges that key evidence relevant to the assault claim was ignored by the university’s Office of Discrimination and Harassment, claims Alison Jaggar made false statements to the alleged victim and to others saying that Barnett had retaliated against the victim, and argues that termination is too extreme a punishment.

UPDATE (11/6/14): The Daily Camera has a new article about a May 2013 email the paper obtained from Jaggar to colleagues in the philosophy department in which she raises concerns about Barnett retaliating against the alleged victim. From the article:

[Jaggar] wrote that while looking into the university’s investigation of the sexual assault, Barnett questioned witnesses and then began telling philosophy faculty members a “tale” about what happened on the night of the assault. She wrote that he placed “much of the blame” on the victim. 

In conversations with various people, Jaggar wrote, Barnett focused on the woman’s sexual behavior that night and how much she’d had to drink. ” … The smearing of her reputation has hurt (female graduate student) very badly,” Jaggar wrote. “I am wondering if it could be construed as creating or contributing to a hostile environment. … I am also wondering if (Barnett’s) activities seeking to discredit (the student) might fall within (the Office of Discrimination and Harassment’s) definition of retaliation.”…

Jaggar also claims that in speaking with witnesses, Barnett “may have intimidated at least one student.”

The article quotes other colleagues of Barnett’s who claim that their conversations with him about this matter “focused entirely” on how the university’s Office of Discrimination and Harassment handled its investigation of the assault complaint.

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