Former CSU assistant professor responds to University’s motion to dismiss retaliation case

Natalia Sperry

Despite the allegations that she was on “thin ice,” Christina Boucher wants to proceed with the sexual harassment retaliation lawsuit against Colorado State University. 

Former CSU assistant professor Christina Boucher’s attorneys filed a response to the University’s previous motion for summary judgment to the Larimer County district court on June 11. 

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The 42-page filed legal response asks the court to deny CSU’s motion for summary judgment on the grounds that CSU’s statement of facts only tells part of the story of the case, according to court documents. The University’s motion for summary judgment asked a judge to rule that the lawsuit has no merit and throw out the case prior to the scheduled Aug. 20 jury trial.

Boucher’s legal response states additional material facts and disputes a number of the previous motion’s claims, according to a statement from Boucher.

“CSU’s effort to deny me access to a fair trial is just another example of how they’ve tried to bully me for simply reporting sexual harassment,” wrote Boucher. “Today I told the truth about what CSU put me and my family through.” 

Boucher filed a lawsuit against the University last year, claiming her ability to receive tenure was compromised and she and her husband, former CSU professor Jaime Ruiz, were forced to resign after she accused computer science professor Asa Ben-Hur of sexual harassment.

The University filed a motion for summary judgment on May 28, claiming supervisors were already discussing Boucher’s professional behavior and progress toward tenure prior to the report, and that therefore, Boucher could not establish causation of the allegations and actions taken against her. 

CSU Director of Public Affairs and Communications Mike Hooker wrote in an email to The Collegian that the University anticipates the Colorado Attorney General’s office will be filing a reply brief on behalf of CSU in the next week or so.

Hooker wrote that CSU cannot comment in detail on the pending litigation, but once again stated that there has been no action taken against any employee based on Boucher’s allegations.

“While CSU takes allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation seriously, CSU strongly disputes Dr. Boucher’s claims and is actively defending against them,” Hooker wrote. 

According to Boucher’s statement, both the sexual harassment and retaliation were not isolated events. Boucher wrote that she is aware of other females in the computer science department who have stories similar to her own, but she filed the information as suppressed to abide by the Court’s protective order and chose not to use their names to protect their identities.

Boucher claims the “campaign of retaliation” she experienced was part of a culture of gender discrimination at CSU, according to the statement. 

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“Before I reported the harassment, my annual evaluations from the department chair had been consistently positive, as was feedback from my colleagues and collaborators. I had published 20 scientific articles and was part of three funded grants worth over $2.5 million,” Boucher said. “I felt certain that I had a future at CSU and could provide the University with high-quality research, publication and teaching.”

The court filing includes claims of additional cases of gender discrimination at the University. According to court documents, in Oct. 2014 computer science graduate students also complained to a faculty member about others “making unwanted advances” and “being biased … in working and collaborating with others in terms of gender, nationality or race and treating other people with discrimination.” 

According to court documents, the Office of Equal Opportunity received 10 allegations of gender discrimination, sexual harassment or retaliation from the College of Natural Sciences between Jan. 1, 2014 to summer 2016. Only two of the allegations were allegedly investigated by OEO.

“Especially in the age of #MeToo and #TimesUp, this kind of behavior should be exposed for what (it) is: outrageous, cruel, unfair, sexist and entirely unacceptable,” Boucher wrote.

In the court filing, Boucher also disputes the motion’s characterization of her interaction with the Denver Zoo and allegations of there being a disagreement with Whitley about a National Science Foundation funding letter. She also disputes the characterization of a number of interactions surrounding her annual evaluations, tenure committee meetings and ultimate resignation from the University. 

According to court documents, Boucher’s lawyers claim the court can enter summary judgment only if there is no material factual dispute. 

“Nevertheless, my primary concern is that CSU’s aggressive retaliation might deter victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault from speaking up,” Boucher wrote. “But my primary hope is that what happened to me is not repeated, and that sexual harassment, discrimination and assault victims will receive the responses and support they deserve rather than retaliation.”

Editor’s note: previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Boucher was aware of other female professors with stories similar to her own. Former CSU professor Ruiz’s name was also spelled incorrectly. This story has been updated to more accurately reflect Boucher’s statement and to correctly spell Ruiz’s name. 

Collegian News Editor Natalia Sperry can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @Natalia_Sperry.