Big donor chemistry professor wants job back on campus while harassment probed

Ann Knef Aug. 7, 2008, 6:37am

A retired chemistry professor who donated $2.5 million to SIUC for a research facility he would direct until he died or retired is suing because he can't get on campus while sexual harassment allegations against him are being investigated.

Cal Meyers, who retired as distinguished professor emeritus and who has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry "multiple times," according to a lawsuit filed in federal court Aug. 5, is seeking an expedited preliminary and permanent injunction to allow him to resume his duties as director of the Meyers Institute in Interdisciplinary Research in Organic and Medicinal Chemistry.

Meyers claims his position as director was "guaranteed…as consideration for his $2.5 million donation to SIU-C," made Feb. 15, 2000.

Part of Meyers' ongoing work involves "cutting edge and patentable scientific research relating to breast and prostate cancer that is valuable for both monetary and lifesaving purposes," states the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

He claims he was notified on Nov, 8, 2007 by SIUC Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Dean John Koropchak that a sexual harassment complaint had been filed against him.

Koropchak's memo indicated that Meyers "must cease contact with all student workers in the department and complete a sexual harassment training course," the complaint states.

Meyers claims his request for information regarding the allegations was initially ignored.

Meyers received another memo on Jan. 31 from SIUC Chancellor Fernando Trevino stating that additional complaints of "harassment and retaliation regarding Plaintiff" had been received, and as a result, he would no longer be permitted on any property or in any buildings assigned to SIUC for the duration of the pending investigation.

"Further, if Plaintiff was found on any such property, he would be promptly arrested," the complaint states.

Meyers' attorney received a memo from SIUC's general counsel on April 28 which contained "nine vague references to allegations of 'inappropriate racial comments [and violations of] SIU-C policies related to harassment, inappropriate physical contact, and smoking within buildings,'" the complaint states.

In part, Meyers' suit claims his due process rights were violated because he was not allowed a hearing after being barred from SIUC property and denied access to his role as director of the institute.

Koropchak is a co-defendant in the suit.

Among other things, Meyers alleges Koropchak intentionally inflicted emotional distress on him.

"Defendant Koropchak is a retired military officer," the complaint states.

"Plaintiff is a conscientious objector.

"Defendant Koropchak knew Plaintiff is a conscientious objector.

"Defendant Koropchak openly disagreed with Plaintiff's stance as a conscientious objector."

Meyers claims Koropchak withheld information relating to sexual harassment allegations since November 2007, "for the purpose of tormenting Plaintiff and causing him extraordinary anxiety," the complaint states.

"Defendant Koropchak has publicly berated and demeaned Plaintiff and tormented Plaintiff by withholding any and all information regarding the sexual harassment allegation in retaliation for Plaintiff's stance as a conscientious objector," the complaint states.

"Defendant Koropchak's auspicious and continued efforts to demean and torment Plaintiff are not just mean spirited and vengeful, but are also strong evidence of the personal animus behind all of the allegations currently lodged against Plaintiff," the complaint states.

Meyers claims Koropchak's conduct was "so outrageous in character and so extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency and is to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community," the complaint states.

"Defendant Koropchak's conduct caused Plaintiff emotional distress so severe that no reasonable person should be expected to endure it," the complaint states.

Meyers is represented by Rebecca Whittington of Carbondale.

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