November 29, 2012

Ombuds Approves Professor's Firing; Indiana Supreme Court Upholds

Last week the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by former University of Evansville professor.  The firing had followed a recommendation by a review committee that included the university's Faculty Ombuds.

Case Title and Citation: Haegert v. Univ. of Evansville, 2012 Ind. LEXIS 927 (Ind. Nov. 13, 2012)
Court: Indiana Supreme Court
Summary of Decision: John Haegert, a tenured professor in Evansville's English Department, was accused of sexually harassing a female faculty member in 2004.  The female professor filed a complaint, which was subsequently investigated by a Review Committee headed by the university's Affirmative Action Officer.  The university followed its published investigatory procedures and decided to rescind Haegert's tenure contract.  He sued for breach of contract.  On the university's motion for summary judgment before trial, the trial court dismissed the case.  The state appellate reversed.  The State Supreme Court held that clear evidence supported the trial court's finding that the dismissal process complied with the contract.
Relevance of Ombuds: According to the court's decision, the Faculty Ombuds was a member of the Review Committee that investigated the sexual harassment complaint and recommended the professor's termination.  The Court did not address the role or actions of the Ombuds., who was not identified by name in the decision. (Indiana Supreme Court; Inside Higher Ed.)

Related posts: Ombuds as Antidote to Rising Threat of Litigation in Academia; U Washington Faces Lawsuit Despite Mediation by Ombuds; Report by Ombuds Becomes Critical Evidence in Lawsuit Against University; Edinboro University Settles Lawsuit Against Ombuds and Other Administrators; Federal Court Dismisses Student's Lawsuit Against University of Cincinnati Ombuds; Court Will Hear Case Against University of Washington Alleging Retaliation Against Ombuds' Visitor; Federal Appeals Court Dismisses Lawsuit that Involved Southern Illinois University Ombuds

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