|Read a Post for Stotter v. University of Texas at San Antonio: How a Minor Dispute About a Professorís Office and Laboratory Became a Federal Lawsuit|
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Re: Re: response to Regina Criswell's post
|Posted By: Regina Criswell on July 28, 2008|
|The case initially started in 2001 after the administration removed every thing from Dr. Stotter's lab, without adequate notice to Dr. Stotter so that he could secure his personal property and research. The courts have concluded that the notice that was sent was not designed to provide adequate notice, even though the letter acknowledged that there might be personal property and research that should be identified and removed before the "clean-up" of the lab began. When we initially filed suit, it was for due process violations related to the removal of his personal property and research, including all his research notebooks, and related documentation for his research, some 30 years worth. To date, none of his research notebooks and materials have been returned. |
The reason it has remained in the courts so long is because his termination came after the
lab clean-up, and a second suit was filed related to his termination. Eventually the two cases were consolidated and were set for trial in November 2006 when the trial court dismissed the case in favor of the University. The appeal to the Fifth Circuit lasted a year, when the trial court was affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case was remanded back to the trial court. The only remaining issue before the court to be tried to a jury is whether Dr. Stotter owned any of the research materials in his lab, and if so what is the replacement value.
The issue will turn on interpretation of intellectual policies which provide in relevant part that the Board of Regents will not assert an ownership interest in scholarly or educational materials related to the authorís academic or professional field regardless of the medium of expression.
With respect to suggestions for avoiding this type of conflict, while I'm certain the University would not agree, it seems very clear to me, at lease in this case, that the administration wanted to get rid of Dr. Stotter, and used the pretext of his cluttered and overfilled office and the condition of his lab to justify his termination. E-mails show officials communicating about the situation for several weeks and the clean-up of his lab was scheduled well in advance, but they waited until the Friday before the Monday scheduled clean-up to send a letter cmrrr, which was not received by Dr.Stotter until Wednesday after the clean-up was done and everything removed.
Further, another professor had his lab cleaned up with much more serious safety issues on multiple occasions, including at the same time as Dr. Stotter's, but he was not recommended for termination for health & safety violations. The administration also had letters from at least 5 chemistry experts taking issue with the conclusion that his lab posed a health and safety issue as concluded.
If, as I believe in this case, the administration is determined to find cause to terminate, then unfortunately, I don't think there is much that could be done to avoid this type of situation. As was the case here, despite the administration's position, a grievance panel did not agree that good cause existed and recommended to the Board of Regents that Dr. Stotter not be terminated. They did not follow this recommendation and upheld the termination. On the other hand, if there is no agenda on the part of the administration,
then communication between the administration and its professors would certainly go a long way toward resolving disputes and concerns without resorting to the courts.