Chancellor Andrew Leavitt and Provost John Koker are being sued by a UWO professor who claims that they illegally imposed sanctions after improperly investigating a complaint against him.
In a complaint filed Sept. 14, education professor Peter Meyerson argues that Leavitt and Koker violated his rights established in the university’s Faculty and Academic Staff Handbook by ignoring its rules for disciplining faculty.
Meyerson argues that the university wrongfully handled an investigation regarding a formal complaint made against him by Dean of Students Art Munin and Associate Dean of the College of Education and Human Services Eric Brunsell in February regarding “bullying behavior in the classroom.”
A document from Brunsell stated Meyerson engaged in “hostile behavior towards students, frequently targeting female students” and had a history of “aggressive behavior towards women in the department.”
Meyerson refuted the complaint, stating in his formal complaint response that he believed it was a retaliation against him due to “petty office politics” between him and Brunsell.
According to the faculty handbook, the chancellor is given 20 working days after starting a formal review of a complaint against staff or faculty to decide if the complaint should be prosecuted or dropped.
The lawsuit said Leavitt disregarded this rule by taking 134 working days to dismiss the complaint after beginning the formal investigation.
The university claimed the ongoing pandemic pushed back the investigation and made it difficult to comply with the investigation timeline.
While the formal complaint was dismissed by Leavitt after investigators found no violation of faculty policy, Meyerson argues that Koker ignored the requirements of a complaint dismissal by initiating disciplinary actions at the beginning of September.
“While I realize that the complaint has been dismissed since the two investigators did not have enough evidence to support a violation of policy, I remain concerned about the allegations raised in the complaint as well as the history of student concerns in the past,” Koker said in a Sept. 8 letter to Meyerson.
Based on the complaint, Koker is requiring an individual to monitor Meyerson’s conduct in his classes and meetings as well requiring Meyerson to complete a written self-evaluation of his teaching.
Meyerson contended this goes against university policy as the handbook states, “if the complaint is dismissed, the faculty member shall not be subjected to further jeopardy for the same alleged misconduct.”
The lawsuit claims Koker’s disciplinary actions overstep the university’s established processes for handling faculty complaints.
However, Koker’s letter references a 2017 letter from Leavitt stating, “if there are future complaints about [Meyerson’s] style with students and colleagues, we will need to treat them very seriously and we will take appropriate action.”
Meyerson’s lawsuit requests the court to force Leavitt and Koker to abide by the rule established in the faculty handbook regarding complaints and disciplinary actions.
The suit also requests the court to declare Koker’s decision to impose sanctions as illegal for its “unconstitutional deprivation of Dr. Meyerson’s due process rights because it defies the faculty handbook.”
Lastly, Meyerson asks that the court bar the university from issuing disciplinary actions against him and delete the sanctions from his personnel record.
A motion hearing for the case is scheduled for Oct. 5 at 11 a.m.