UO will defend its coaches – but the professors?

Update: See the comments for this correction, from Ms Emeldi’s lawyer, David Force, making clear that the Emeldi case is against UO, not against Prof Horner:

There is not now and never has been a lawsuit by her against Dr. Horner. The sole defendant in the case is the University itself. Title IX of the Education Act is directed to institutions, not individuals, who receive Federal funding support. Monica’s lawsuit seeks damages and equitable remedies (an injunction) against the University for retaliating against her for criticizing Dr. Horner.

10/30/2012. UO has spent something north of $150,000 on lawyers to defend Coach Chip Kelly in the Willie Lyles NCAA investigation. Add in the hours for Jim O’Fallon, Rob Mullens, and the general counsel’s office, not to mention three UO president’s so far, and the cost has to be well over $500,000. There’s no sign that UO is going to ask Kelly to help pay for any of it.

But suppose a case involving a UO professor and substantive questions of academic freedom comes up. Well, one such 2005 case involved law school professor Merle Weiner, sued for defamation by someone who didn’t like the description of his court case that she published in a law journal. President Frohnmayer and his general counsel Melinda Grier decided not to defend her. UO argued – I’m not making this up – that publishing was not part of a professor’s job responsibilities. Weiner had to pay for her own defense, and she settled out of court.

Now there’s another important UO case, involving a conflict between Ed School professor Rob Horner and former PhD student Monica Emeldi. The appeals court ruling against Horner has attracted national attention because it allows grad students to use Title IX anti-discrimination law to file suits against the professors who advise their research – apparently a first.

It’s a controversial decision, Diane Dietz had an excellent write up in the RG Sunday. So is UO going to defend its faculty this time? Randy Geller gives a resounding maybe:

“We have reason to believe that this would be a good candidate for review because it has academic freedom and Constitutional implications,” Geller said. “The question we have to ask ourselves, first of all, is it worth seeking review? If review were to be granted, then are we prepared for the cost of (review)?”

I’m all for applying cost/benefit analysis. I just don’t trust Randy Geller to do anything better than a hack job at it. The UO Senate should make this call – unless Johnson Hall is now going to start arguing that advising PhD students is not part of a professor’s job responsibilities either.

It’s worth noting that there is a policy on legal services in the works – but it’s been stalled for almost a year. Geller’s original version created a firestorm in the Senate Executive Committee, and he refused to show up and defend it.

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17 Responses to UO will defend its coaches – but the professors?

  1. Cheyney Ryan says:

    Frohnmayer’s refusal to defend Merle Weiner was a departure from previous U of O practice. In the 1990′s, I was sued by a male non-student at the U of O for defending Project Safe-Ride in the pages of the Emerald. He claimed that my rejection of his arguments was defamatory. Miles Brand, then president, and Pete Swan, the U of O atty, ruled that the U of O should pay for my defense on the grounds that I was a faculty member exercising my right to free speech on matters of university concern, related to my area of expertise. (They also defended several students that were sued for the same reason.) (The case was eventually dismissed.) Geller is right to worry about the matter of principle in the Horner case; he should be equally concerned about standing behind his faculty, if the allegations against him are groundless.

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  2. UO Matters says:

    Thanks Cheyney for this informative comment. I’d be very interested in hearing more about past UO practice when it comes to legal matters from people with specific experiences or knowledge.

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  3. Old Man says:

    The UO Senate and the UO President appear to be entering a phase of constitutionally mandated negotiation on an Academic Freedom/Freedom of Speech Policy. A Policy Proposal passed by the Senate in 2010 bogged down in JH apparently due to objections from the Provost/GC duo. The points of difference are revealed in http://senate.uoregon.edu/sites/senate.uoregon.edu/files/AcademicFreedonFreeSpeech071511-1.pdf
    This matter is not mentioned in the Senate Agenda for November 7 (3 PM in the Knoght Library), but it might be hiding in the item “State of the University.”

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    • UO Matters says:

      Thanks Old Man – any word on the drug testing policy?

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    • Old Man says:

      On the Agenda, we find: 3:25 pm 3. New Business
      3.1 OAR on Random Drug Testing; Robert Kyr, Senate President

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  4. Anonymous says:

    As Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Lorraine Davis’s behavior was particularly reprehensible in the Weiner matter. In many ways, LD symbolizes the rotten core that UO administration has become. In the early 90s, after a mediocre academic career as a professor of health education, she was diverted into administration (because she had tenure and her department was eliminated due to budget cuts) and the UO has been paying a high price for her questionable ethical standards and blind loyalty to those above her ever since. Won’t she ever disappear from the organizational chart?

    More generally, why is it at the UO that whenever a question with ethical dimensions arises, administrators always make their call based on unquestioning loyalty to those above them instead of opting to do the right thing?

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    • Anonymous says:

      If you see an Old Man at Espresso Roma some day, join him for coffee and he’ll recite an LD tale that illustrates your point in spades.

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    • Old Man says:

      So, the Old Man is put on the spot! Let me make it clear that anyone who worked in John Moseley’s Administration was apparently subject to whimsical dismissal. LD may not have been in a position to risk losing her income. That may explain, but certainly does not excuse, her actions.

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    • Anonymous says:

      LD had tenure so she may have lost her administrative job but presumably they would have found a place for her to teach. Moreover this does not explain her more recent ethical failings.

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    • Old Man says:

      As I understand “tenure”, it does not protect against the closure of a Department. If LD’s move to the Provost’s office was really a result of closure of her Dept., I suspect she has no tenure other than a term contract as an Administrator.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Dog Says

      Old man is correct here – if your department closes tenure does not protect you. So if you want to it rid of dogs, you need to close the Dog Exists Department, which only gives a degree in dogology anyway …

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  5. Anonymous says:

    I am not really anonymous, but there is no comment profile for me. I am David Force and I am the attorney for Monica Emeldi. There is not now and never has been a lawsuit by her against Dr. Horner. The sole defendant in the case is the University itself. Title IX of the Education Act is directed to institutions, not individuals, who receive Federal funding support. Monica’s lawsuit seeks damages and equitable remedies (an injunction) against the University for retaliating against her for criticizing Dr. Horner.

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    • UO Matters says:

      Thanks – I’ve added this to the post and I appreciate this correction.

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    • Cheyney Ryan says:

      My apologies as well to both David and Monica. I was not commenting on their case, but on the propriety of the U of O defending professors when they are sued (for reasons that the U of O regards as insubstantial).

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    • UO Matters says:

      This does make it more likely that Randy will pursue the appeal, since he’ll be defending UO, not just some lowly professor.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Randy Geller at the SCOTUS. That’ll show John Bonine!

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    • UO Matters says:

      Right. Geller is too scared of Bonine to even show his face in the Senate. And I have the feeling he is not going to be allowed to help with the briefs, much less say a word if this ever comes to oral arguments.

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