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Southern Illinois University: Another Outrageous Case of Faculty Abuse and Denial of Due Process

Posted by iusbvision on August 23, 2008

Multiple Nobel Prize nominee for chemistry Professor Cal Meyers made a 2.5 million dollar research grant to Southern Illinois University (SIU). The grant was conditional in that Meyers would direct the program until he resigned or died. Meyers is a retired chemistry professor from SIU. He retired with the title of Distinguished Professor Emeritus.

According court documents and media accounts Meyers is an old man who wished to continue his work. Meyers obtained his PhD. in 1951. It appears that SIU was all too willing to take his 2.5 million, but wanted to get rid of him.

The university declared him guilty of unspecified allegations against him including inappropriate racial comments, sexual harassment, smoking in university buildings and retaliation. All without any proper notification, due process, a hearing or even any opportunity to defend himself. A rather long and varied list of charges to apply to an aged career professor who had retired with honor wouldn’t you say?

Professor Meyers was told that if he returned to campus he would be promptly arrested.

It gets better, according to court documents, “As part of Plaintiff’s on-going work, he is working on cutting edge and patentable scientific research relating to breast and prostate cancer that is valuable for both monetary and lifesaving purposes.” Meyers has been nominated for the Nobel Prize multiple times for his research, so it would seem likely that this statement has merit.

Smell a rat anyone?

What is also of interest to me is Count IV in the court documents, “Conspiracy to Interfere with Civil Rights”. If this charge does stick and is not thrown out by the court I would be very interested to see Keith Sampson at IUPUI and others file under this section of the code (42 U.S.C. § 1985(3)).

Section 3 of 42 U.S.C. § 1985 states:

If two or more persons in any State or Territory conspire or go in disguise
on the highway or on the premises of another, for the purpose of depriving, either
directly or indirectly, any person or class of persons of the equal protection of the
laws, or of equal privileges and immunities under the laws . . . whereby another is
injured in his person or property, or deprived of having and exercising any right
or privilege of a citizen of the United States, the party so injured or deprived may
have an action for the recovery of damages occasioned by such injury or
deprivation, against any one or more of the conspirators.

Meyers is also suing for defamation and intentional affliction of emotional distress; charges that apply to what was done to Keith Sampson by IUPUI.

The SIU court documents are here. Information on the Keith Sampson case at IUPUI can be found here, here and here. The Sampson case has another similarity  with this one. The New EEO of IUPUI Kim Kirkland also has a record of charging faculty without due process resulting in termination according to court documents and an attorney involved ion the case. Kirkland’s victim obtained a lawyer and won back his rights. The court documents regarding Kirkland are in the second Sampson link in this paragraph.

FIRE has a terrific post on this SIU scandal here and the following is an exerpt:

To this point, Meyers still had been provided with no details whatsoever about the allegations against him. Moreover, from the complaint it appears rather undeniable that official SIUC policy and procedures for the investigation and adjudication of sexual harassment claims were not followed-not followed at all, it seems. The complaint quotes some of the provisions that were violated.

No hearing, no chance to respond to the evidence, no statement of evidence, no chance to respond to the accuser, no notification of a right to appeal. Nothing. Just two letters with unspecified allegations.

Finally, on April 28, 2008-months later-Meyers’ attorney, Rebecca Whittington, received a list of “some” examples (“[t]his list is not intended to be a comprehensive list of the potential allegations”) from SIUC’s General Counsel, Jerry Blakemore (emphasis added). Blakemore alleged that Meyers was in trouble for, among other things, making “inappropriate racial comments” and “smoking within buildings,” plus a list of allegations that were more closely related to the original, unspecified allegations of sexual harassment-but all of this was entirely new to Meyers. These were completely new charges in an investigation which had gone on for months, still with no hearing, and still with no attempt to get Meyers’ account of any of the alleged incidents.

This is not the first time UIC has used this tactic against an aged professor:

Cal Meyers is fortunate in one respect, at least. He is not SIUC Professor John Simon, who passed away after SIUC similarly charged him with sexual harassment. The due process elements of the case were, in my opinion, rather poor as well.

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