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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Court denies SIU summary judgment in former professor's suit, sends discrimination case to trial

By Glenn Minnis | Nov 7, 2017

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BENTON – The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois has denied the Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University’s motion for summary judgment in a tenure dispute with a former professor, setting the case for trial instead.

In a ruling signed Oct. 30 by U.S. District Judge Nancy J. Rosenthal, the court determined the “because material issues of fact remain for a jury to determine, the court denies SIU’s motion."

Dr. Laura Hatcher, then a non-tenured professor in political science, filed suit against the university in 2013, alleging gender discrimination was the overriding factor in her being denied tenure and a promotion, ultimately leading to her dismissal.

At the same time she filed her suit, Hatcher also filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

With the SIU tenure process being multi-layered, Hatcher received mixed reviews at various points in the process during the tenure review period, which began in 2006, the ruling states.

In her suit, she maintained that throughout her time at the university she constantly received positive reviews and that soon after her denial for tenure became official, SIU’s Judicial Review Board ruled Provost John Nicklow violated procedure in rendering his final determination by not articulating to Hatcher what factors went into his decision, it states. 

JRB determined that Nicklow’s decision should be overturned and Hatcher be given tenure and promoted to associate professor based on the political science department’s original recommendation, it states.

In ruling to deny the defendant’s latest motion, the court stipulated that “summary judgment is only proper if the moving party can demonstrate that no genuine issue of material fact exists, and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”

The board also argued that Hatcher going to the EEOC had the effect of “an attack on the academic decisions of academic decision-makers,” and such the university should be afforded deference on such matters.

A final pretrial conference and jury trial is slated to be set by separate order.

The Southern Illinoisan previously reported Hatcher’s suit seeks $1 million each in compulsory and punitive damages, plus attorney fees.

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U.S. District Court for the Southern District of IllinoisSouthern Illinois University Carbondale