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Monday, Aug. 20th 2018

Due Process In Professor Appeals: Public vs. Private Universities

College and university professors may be in need of legal assistance when facing a variety of institutional decisions adversely affecting their status, including promotion, tenure issues and professor appeals; misconduct allegations and discriminatory employment actions. All of these areas of potentially adverse actions affecting faculty invoke a faculty member’s due process rights at a public, tax-supported institution. The concept of due process is a constitutional law protection emanating from the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, protecting public employees from a “taking of a property right” without due process of law. A professor’s employment, amount of compensation and sometimes one’s assignment, title and position can all be “property rights” subject to due process protections before being taken or diminished.

This due process concept does not strictly apply to employees of private colleges and universities. In this context, a professor has only contractual rights set forth in a written contract of employment or in published policies promising an equivalent to due process. At a private college or university, a denial of promotion, denial of tenure, allegation of misconduct or adverse employment action all can invoke particular “rights” or processes typically giving the employee notice of an intended adverse action and an opportunity to respond and/or appear at a hearing to contest the recommended sanction.

The subject of Professor Appeals requires an analysis of the particular rights and procedures available based on the type of allegation, sanction or decision being contested or appealed. An appeal implies that there has already been some formal adverse action taken affecting the faculty member’s status. It can be a misconduct allegation, such as a Title IX gender discrimination claim. It can be misconduct based on criminal charges or a conviction. Most often professors need help with adverse evaluations which lead to a Performance Improvement Plan or which lead to a recommendation of dismissal.

Professor Appeals often involve a denial of promotion and tenure at about Year 6 when non-tenured faculty are eligible for tenure. This type of Professor Appeal is complex and requires a thorough evaluation of the faculty member’s prior evaluations and the college or university’s adherence to its published standards for a fair and correct determination of achievement of tenured status.

For a free initial phone consultation about your concern involving a Professor Appeal, contact Mr. Cohen by email at: cac@studentrightslawyers.com or by phone at: 785.979.7361

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