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Smock v. Board of Regents of the University of Michigan

February 2018
University of Michigan

Pamela Smock—a professor at the University of Michigan—was subjected to a Title IX investigation after several of her students made complaints of inappropriate conduct. These complaints were made after Smock had questioned the authenticity of a student’s work product. Despite a finding by the university that Smock’s alleged conduct did not create a “sexually hostile environment,” the Dean of Smock’s department sanctioned her for three years, freezing Smock’s salary—among other punishments. At a later grievance hearing, the university also alleged that Smock had violated the university’s civility policy and ultimately upheld the sanctions. At this point, Smock filed a Complaint in the Eastern District of Michigan alleging—among other things—two First Amendment claims: a facial challenge to the civility policy and a retaliation claim. The court dismissed both First Amendment claims on November 19, 2018. However, the case is ongoing and—from the docket—it appears that discovery dates have been scheduled through 2020.

Josephson v. Bendapudi

March 2019
University of Louisville

Dr. Allan Josephson spoke at an event hosted by the Heritage Foundation in 2017 and made remarks concerning gender dysphoria in children that angered several colleagues. Weeks later, the university gave into the demands of Dr. Josephson’s colleagues and demoted him to a junior faculty member. In 2019, the school announced that it would not be renewing Dr. Josephson’s contract, a highly unusual decision that practically equates to the firing of Dr. Josephson. On March 28, 2019, Dr. Josephson filed a Complaint in the Western District of Kentucky alleging retaliation by the university in violation of the First Amendment.

Klaassen v. Atkinson

From October 2013, to September 2018
University of Kansas Medical Center

A long-standing employment dispute between Dr. Klaassen and the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC) eventually turned into a contentious lawsuit. Dr. Klaassen, a long-time tenured professor at the university, claimed that the university retaliated against him in violation of the First Amendment for various comments, outbursts, and other speech made over his decades as a professor. The school placed Dr. Klaassen on administrative leave multiple times and eventually terminated his employment based on his erratic behavior and speech. The District Court of Kansas held that Dr. Klaassen’s alleged “speech” was not protected by the First Amendment, granting summary judgment to KUMC. Dr. Klaassen appealed the decision to the Tenth Circuit on October 30, 2018.

Howell v. Millersville University of Pennsylvania

From January 2020, to June 2019
Millersville University of Pennsylvania

Allen Howell joined the Millersville University of Pennsylvania music department as an associate professor in August, 2014. Allegedly, other faculty members were not pleased with his hiring. As a result, these faculty members and the university began retaliating against him for (1) critical comments he made about the University and (2) for alerting the University to gender-based harassment that occurred in one of his classes. Howell filed suit in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and in 2018 the Third Circuit held that Howell had not adequately pled a prima facie First Amendment retaliation case. Following this ruling, the district court dismissed Howell’s renewed objections as moot in 2019, closing the case.

Demers v. Austin

From January 2006, to January 2014
Washington State University

David Demers, a professor at Washington State University (“WSU”), alleged that university administrators took punitive actions towards him–such as a disciplinary warning–in retaliation of Demers’ distribution of his personal writings. After eight-years of litigation, the Ninth Circuit eventually held that such writings related to a matter of public concern and were therefore eligible for protection under the First Amendment, subject to further fact-finding at the District Court. Following this decision, Demers settled with the defendants for $120,000.

McAdams v. Marquette University

From May 2016, to June 2018
Marquette University

A professor at Marquette published a post on his personal blog criticizing the manner in which a graduate-student philosophy instructor interacted with one of her students. He was subsequently suspended and filed suit against the university.

Beverly v. Watson

From July 2014, to March 2019
Chicago State University

Two professors who ran a blog that was critical of Chicago State University sued the school under §1983 for instituting overbroad and vague computer usage and harassment policies, as well as taking retaliatory action against them for running the blog.

Buchanan v. LSU

From January 2016, to January 2018
Louisiana State Univerity

On January 21, 2016, tenured education professor Teresa Buchanan filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the president of Louisiana State University and other top administrators for violating her free speech and due process rights by firing her in 2015.  Buchanan was fired for her alleged occasional use of profanity and sexual language in preparing […]