ILNews

COA: University should get summary judgment

Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the trustees of Indiana University, finding the trial court erred when it denied summary judgment for the school and concluded a provision in an agreement between the school and a fired professor was ambiguous.

In the interlocutory appeal of Trustees of Indiana University v. H. Daniel Cohen,  No. 20A03-0812-CV-590, H. Daniel Cohen was hired as a physics professor with tenure and as chancellor of Indiana University - South Bend, but agreed to resign as chancellor following sexual harassment allegations. Following a sabbatical, Cohen and the university entered into an agreement that allowed him to continue teaching "with tenure with the rights and responsibilities attendant to that position." Another paragraph in the agreement stated he would be dismissed if any future proven act of sexual harassment or retaliation by Cohen occurred.

Student J.G. complained Cohen discriminated against her based on gender and religion, and also complained of sexual harassment and retaliation. Other students reported Cohen was demeaning and condescending and often swore in class. Cohen walked by a room where J.G. was taking a math test and made lingering eye contact with her; she became distraught and later filed a complaint alleging retaliation.

The school's Affirmative Action Office investigated and determined he violated school policy on sexual harassment. Cohen was dismissed in August 2001. He filed a complaint in 2003 alleging IUSB breached its agreement by terminating his employment without reason.

The Court of Appeals evaluated paragraphs three and 10 of the agreement between IUSB and Cohen to determine if paragraph three was ambiguous regarding whether the rights and responsibilities attendant to the position to which the agreement refers are those in the school's constitutions and handbooks. The trial court ruled the agreement was ambiguous on this point.

The Court of Appeals ruled the language "rights and responsibilities attendant to" the position of tenured professor doesn't in any way limit Cohen's responsibilities under the school's faculty handbooks, wrote Judge Elaine Brown.

"The clause at issue in Paragraph 3 reveals the parties' intent that Cohen be responsible for fulfilling those obligations which he would have been required to fulfill had he been a professor at the University whether or not he entered into the Agreement," she wrote.

His responsibilities included those all professors had to follow and the designated evidence supports this conclusion. Cohen even testified that the clause in question meant all things stated in the handbooks regarding rights and responsibilities.

Because the agreement allowed the school to fire Cohen for violations of the Code of Ethics as set forth in the handbooks, the university didn't breach the agreement by firing Cohen on that basis and was entitled to judgment as a matter of law, wrote Judge Brown. The case is remanded with instructions to enter summary judgment in favor of IU.

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Why are all these lawyers yakking to the media about pending matters? Trial by media? What the devil happened to not making extrajudicial statements? The system is falling apart.

  2. It is a sad story indeed as this couple has been only in survival mode, NOT found guilty with Ponzi, shaken down for 5 years and pursued by prosecution that has been ignited by a civil suit with very deep pockets wrenched in their bitterness...It has been said that many of us are breaking an average of 300 federal laws a day without even knowing it. Structuring laws, & civilForfeiture laws are among the scariest that need to be restructured or repealed . These laws were initially created for drug Lords and laundering money and now reach over that line. Here you have a couple that took out their own money, not drug money, not laundering. Yes...Many upset that they lost money...but how much did they make before it all fell apart? No one ask that question? A civil suit against Williams was awarded because he has no more money to fight...they pushed for a break in order...they took all his belongings...even underwear, shoes and clothes? who does that? What allows that? Maybe if you had the picture of him purchasing a jacket at the Goodwill just to go to court the next day...his enemy may be satisfied? But not likely...bitterness is a master. For happy ending lovers, you will be happy to know they have a faith that has changed their world and a solid love that many of us can only dream about. They will spend their time in federal jail for taking their money from their account, but at the end of the day they have loyal friends, a true love and a hope of a new life in time...and none of that can be bought or taken That is the real story.

  3. Could be his email did something especially heinous, really over the top like questioning Ind S.Ct. officials or accusing JLAP of being the political correctness police.

  4. Sounds like overkill to me, too. Do the feds not have enough "real" crime to keep them busy?

  5. We live in the world that has become wider in sense of business and competition. Everything went into the Web in addition to the existing physical global challenges in business. I heard that one of the latest innovations is moving to VDR - cloud-based security-protected repositories. Of course virtual data rooms comparison is required if you want to pick up the best one.

ADVERTISEMENT