Fired faculty files suits against Loyola
Litigants claim handbook violation
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2007
Updated: Sunday, December 14, 2008 00:12
Earlier this month seven former Loyola faculty members, terminated under the "Pathways" plan, filed lawsuits against the university at Civil District Court.
The lawsuits charged the university with breach of contracts and breach of contracts in bad faith for violating the conditions of termination set out in the Faculty Handbook - a part of faculty members' contracts. Other named as defendants include Provost Walter Harris Jr. and the Rev. Kevin Wildes, S.J., university president.
Specifically, plaintiffs claim the university violated section 9E.2 of the Faculty Handbook. The section states that in the case of program or department discontinuation the university must make efforts to find other possible positions before terminating faculty - even if additional training is required. It further states that if no other position may be found, then the university must devise a severance plan adjusted to that faculty member's length of past employment and potential service.
The university terminated 17 tenured and tenure-track professors after disolving and consolidating several departments in response to Hurricane Katrina last spring, eliciting an investigation and potential censure from the American Association of University Professors.
One lawsuit, involving former communications professor Nancy Dupont, claims "Loyola never declared financial exigency and Dr. Dupont's fitness was never questioned." Dupont claims the one-year salary Loyola offered as severance was owed contractually and did not adjust to the length of her past and potential service.
The lawsuit of former communications professor William Hammel, director of the now-defunct film studies sequence, claims the terminated sequence was not technically a department or program - a requirement in the Faculty Handbook. Hammel, a tenured professor of 30 years, claims seven of the nine courses he taught were still offered in the communications undergraduate program and the English department.
In an official statement Loyola Director of Public Affairs Kristine Lelong said, "In both the discontinuation of programs and the appeals process, the university has adhered to procedures and policies set forth in the Faculty Handbook."
Other former faculty filing suit include Mary Blue of the former communications department; Janet Melancon, Margaret Dermody and Mary Ann Doyle of education and Ken Messa of computer sciences.
Last month the University Rank and Tenure Committee recommended the reinstatement of five of the former faculty filing suit.
According to Harris, because Wildes has not finished reviewing the URTC's recommendations, the university will not comment on any external actions related to those cases.
One of the attorneys involved, Nancy Picard, said not all petitions have been served upon the university, though all have been filed in court. The plaintiff's petitions were filed at the Civil District Court on April 3, 5 and 9.
Steve Heath can be reached at email@example.com.