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Judge Stops Layoff of Tenured Professor at Charleston Law
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A judge has ruled that a tenured Charleston Law professor may keep her job at the school. The professor previously filed a lawsuit against the school.

Summary: A judge has ruled that a tenured Charleston Law professor may keep her job at the school. The professor previously filed a lawsuit against the school.

Judge R. Markley Dennis, a Charleston-area judge, has stopped the Charleston School of Law from laying off a tenured professor, at least until her case has been heard by the courts, the Wall Street Journal reports.

  
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Professor Nancy Zisk will be allowed to keep her job for the time being. Professor Zisk joined the school as one of its charter faculty members in 2004. She sued the school in June after she was terminated. The school also terminated the positions of six other tenured professors, citing financial issues. Another professor in this group, Allyson Haynes-Stuart, also filed a lawsuit against the school, Charleston Regional Business Journal adds.

However, many wonder whether the school’s alleged financial problems were serious enough to override tenure protections.

Many faculty members felt they were in the dark about the school’s possible closing.

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Previous court rulings have allowed higher education institutions to dismiss tenured professors if a “bona fide” financial exigency exists.

In Zisk’s suit, she alleges that the school’s two remaining founders “contrived” the financial exigency to cover up improper expenditures and the misappropriation of funds. Zisk also argues that the school did not follow proper procedures when it told her she was terminated.



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In May, the school’s owners warned that enrollment may be suspended because of financial issues that threatened the operating license of the school.

However, the school quickly changed its tune, saying that a new class of students would be accepted after all. However, attorneys representing the school said in a brief, “With the reduction in expense achieved by the elimination of the seven faculty, the [Charleston School of Law] was able to continue to operate.”

Read about the school’s announcement that it may not accept a new class here.

Zisk’s complaint suggests that her termination was retaliatory in nature after she expressed her opposition to the sale of the school to InfiLaw, a private-equity backed group that operates for-profit law schools. The sale has been stalled for the past two years after many faculty members, students, and alumni vehemently voiced their opposition to the sale. Seventeen professors signed a column in the Post and Courier in May that opposed the sale. Of the seven professors that were fired, six signed the piece in the Post and Courier.

Attorneys for the school, however, argue that Zisk’s objections to InfiLaw have nothing to do with her dismissal.

Last December, InfiLaw hit a roadblock in the sale of the school.

A June 25 letter to Zisk and the other faculty members that were fired said that the decisions “were made purely on the basis of salaries” and selected those faculty members with the highest salaries.

Zisk’s attorney, Capers G. Barr III, said that the judge emailed his decision on Friday, and is expected to sign off on it later this week.

Barr

Barr

Source: Wall Street Journal

Photo credit: charlestoncitypaper.com, altermanstudios.com (Barr)



 

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