In a move that’s likely to confuse student-faculty sexual relations on campuses across the country, a gay former University of Queensland tutor has won the right to appeal a federal magistrate’s decision that he was not the victim of sexual harassment after he was invited to the cinema by a female student.
The tutor, Peter Gauci, first met the student, Cristelle Kennedy, in his capacity as a tutorial coordinator in the university’s psychology department in 2002, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
After a social lunch together in 2003, Kennedy suggested that they should get tattoos, possibly commemorating an incident-free visit to a campus eatery. Gauci declined the offer, but agreed to see a movie with her. Feeling uncomfortable with the developing situation, the tutor cancelled their meeting by email on the day of their appointment, writing: “I don’t feel good about seeing a movie with you … You’re probably a nice person, but we can’t be friends. Please don’t persist with this.”
Gaydar and netiquette on the fritz, Kennedy replied, writing: “I’m not asking a lot of you. If I wanted to ‘jump you’ I would have done it a lot sooner than this … As for persisting, well I’m not one to go down without a fight. If I wanted to make your life hell I could.”
Gauci reported the incident to his supervisor, who suggested that he write an apology to the student for “effectively jilting Ms Kennedy by email”. Ten days after receiving the apology, Kennedy lodged a sexual harassment complaint with the university against Gauci. Gauci responded in kind, one thing led to another, and last month Gauci was granted leave to appeal the Magistrates’ Court’s decision that there were “no facts that would or could amount to sexual harassment”.