Retired professor turns down service award

Updated: March 18, 2004, 11:46 AM ET
Associated Press

BOULDER, Colo. -- A retired history professor has turned down a prestigious service award from the University of Colorado because of her disgust with the football program's sex and recruiting scandal.

In a letter sent Monday to the Board of Regents, Joyce Lebra said she could not accept the University Medal award.

"It's not a decision that I took lightly," Lebra said Wednesday from Maui, where she spends three months a year.

Lebra, 78, started teaching at Colorado in 1962 and retired in 1991. She holds a doctorate from Radcliffe and Harvard, has been a Fulbright scholar three times and has written 11 books.

Lebra said she has followed allegations that the football program used sex and alcohol as recruitment tools.

Until the university undertakes a fundamental reassessment of its priorities, Lebra said she will decline to accept the medal, which the university awards to people whose achievements and contributions are associated with the school.

The regents have appointed an independent panel to investigate the allegations, which took on urgency in January when remarks by Boulder County District Attorney Mary Keenan became public.

Keenan said in a deposition in a lawsuit against Colorado that she believes the football program uses sex and alcohol-fueled parties to lure top recruits. The lawsuit has been brought by a former Colorado student who said she was raped at a December 2001 off-campus party attended by football players and recruits.

Two other women are suing the school, claiming they were raped at or just after the party. The lawsuits accuse the university of fostering an environment that is hostile to women.

Prosecutors declined to file sex assault charges.

Barbara Bintliff, chair of the Boulder Faculty Assembly, said she does not know Lebra personally, but respects the decision.

"I think you have to respect and admire people who have principles that strong that they can turn down an honor that is this significant," she said.

Regent Cindy Carlisle said she wishes Lebra would accept the award and air her criticism.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press