Judgment for IUSB affirmed in professor’s discrimination suit

A fired Indiana University-South Bend professor has lost his appeal of a judgment in favor of the university in his racial discrimination case.

Otis B. Grant was a tenured, award-winning professor who had been at IUSB since 1999 and was fired in 2011. Grant, who is African-American, filed a race discrimination and retaliation suit, but District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt granted summary judgment in favor of IU.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Thursday in Otis B. Grant v. The Trustees of Indiana University, et al., finding the university’s firing for serious misconduct was supported by the record. Grant’s suit also alleged the university denied him due process, defamed him in the South Bend Tribune, and breached a contract created in the university handbook. The panel noted problems arose with Grant in 2008 when several students complained to administrators that Grant cancelled classes, used obscene language in class, dismissed two students from his course without following procedure, and allowed a non-employee to grade student work and access academic records.

The university began an investigation and the Tribune sought records from IUSB under the Access to Public Records Act, which led to questions about Grant’s credentials and claims of prior employment and education. The university hired an outside consulting firm to investigate, and the firm found many were “vague,” “misleading,” or “otherwise incorrect.” Grant was terminated effective Dec. 31, 2011.

The 7th Circuit determined Pratt properly ruled that none of Grant’s claims could survive summary judgment in favor of the university.
The panel determined Pratt properly ruled that none of Grant’s claims could survive summary judgment in favor of the university.

“Grant cannot rely on wholly conclusory statements without a scintilla of evidence to overcome summary judgment. Because the evidence does not permit a reasonable fact-finder to conclude that (then-IUSB Chancellor Uma Mae) Reck’s proffered reason for terminating Grant was pre-textual, the district court  properly  granted  summary  judgment to the defendants on Grant’s discrimination and retaliation claims,” Judge Ann Claire Williams wrote for the panel.  

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