The Maroon

Pathways lawsuit settled

So far, seven of eight termination suits have been settled

Student protest the Pathways proposal at a town hall meeting in Rousell Hall after the plan was announced in 2006.

Jenna Teter

Student protest the Pathways proposal at a town hall meeting in Rousell Hall after the plan was announced in 2006.

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Lawyers representing both Loyola New Orleans and former film production professor William Hammel have reached an out-of-court settlement in the wrongful termination lawsuit filed by Hammel in 2007.

Hammel, along with seven other former tenured and tenure-tracked professors, filed lawsuits against Loyola after the university terminated their employment contracts in the semester immediately following Hurricane Katrina.

Hammel’s case was set for trial to begin May 3, but both sides settled out of court for an undisclosed amount about two weeks before that date, according to Hammel’s attorney, Timothy Schafer.

Schafer said Loyola required confidentiality agreements to be signed as part of the settlement conditions and could not elaborate on the amount of the settlement.

“We were pleased with the settlement,” he said.

Schafer explained the university administration’s reason for settling out of court and for employing the use of confidentiality agreements was to prevent some information uncovered during discovery from becoming public record in court.

So far, seven out of the eight wrongful termination suits have been settled.

The cases of Mary Ann Doyle and Janet Melancon, both former education professors at the university, versus Loyola were settled in court for $160,000 and $120,000 respectively.

All of the other cases were made out of court for undisclosed amounts.

The wrongful termination suits were brought forth after university administration eliminated 17 tenure and tenure-tracked professors along with 74 other positions in a plan, entitled “Pathways,” to balance a $12.9 million net tuition shortfall caused by lowered first-year enrollment numbers after Hurricane Katrina, which repeated for four years.

The university’s administration has held that these terminations were done as part of program eliminations, which is allowed by the faculty handbook. It is this justification that is the point of contention to be debated in court.

The last of the eight professors still waiting their trial date is Mary Blue, former broadcast communications professor. That date is set for Nov. 8 of this year.

Blue said that she is determined to go to trial, but, “If they offer me enough, I’ll settle.”

“(The settlements) tend to get successively larger,” Blue said on the settlement amounts. “I want a lot of money…I mean a lot.”

Blue speculated that the settlements arising from these cases could easily total over $2 million.

Douglas Moore, attorney for Loyola New Orleans, declined to comment for this story.

The Rev. Kevin Wildes, S. J., president of Loyola New Orleans, did not return phone calls to The Maroon to comment for this story.

Jean-Paul Arguello can be reached at [email protected]

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Pathways lawsuit settled