A former tenured professor at Wayne State filed a federal lawsuit against President M. Roy Wilson and WSU on July 2, alleging university officials denied him due process and breached contract during his firing in 2018.
Leon Carlock started as an assistant professor at the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics in 1987 and was granted tenure in 1995. He served as a professor in the School of Medicine until his alleged unlawful termination on Dec. 20, 2018, states the lawsuit.
The lawsuit asks the court to declare the university’s actions unconstitutional and to reverse Carlock’s termination. It demands unspecified monetary and non-monetary compensation.
According to the suit, Wilson and the university failed to adhere to dismissal procedures and protections for tenured faculty as outlined by the WSU Code Annotated section 2.51.01.210 — which states that tenured faculty must receive written notice of WSU’s intent to terminate and is given an opportunity to respond to the notice. The individual is also informed of their right to a committee hearing before termination.
Dean of the School of Medicine, Jack Sobel, wrote Wilson a letter initiating the dismissal proceedings for Carlock, and two days later Wilson terminated Carlock, according to the lawsuit.
“Plaintiff was given no prior notice that Defendant Wilson was considering the specific sanctions levied against him,” the lawsuit states.
The suit states Wilson didn’t give Carlock the opportunity to respond to the allegations and failed to give him a hearing or process prior to his termination.
"Defendants’ publicly-known (sic) unlawful actions have stigmatized Plaintiff, leading to loss of his reputation, good name, honor, and integrity," the lawsuit said.
Carlock’s lawyer, David Nacht, said there’s a point for providing tenure.
“(It’s) to prevent the university from deciding to fire professors who have demonstrated their intellectual merit and teaching capability without going through a fair process,” he said.
For the past several months, WSU had been investigating accusations that Carlock had “engaged in conduct that gave rise to a charge of job-related moral turpitude,” but was unsuccessful in their attempts to contact his attorney and schedule a hearing, according to a statement released by WSU.
Carlock is “unique,” and is the only WSU professor to have undergone de-tenuring twice, due to failure to perform academic assignments competently in July 2016, said the statement.
The WSUCA section 2.51.01.040 states that tenured faculty may be dismissed for “adequate cause after opportunity for a fair hearing.” Adequate causes are defined as “acts involving moral turpitude,” a “serious violation of generally accepted academic standards and principles,” and “failure to perform academic assignments competently,” according to WSUCA 2.51.01.190.
WSU continues to stand “zealously” by their position and decision, the statement said.
“We are disappointed that WSU is choosing to litigate in the press rather than the courts,” Nacht said.
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Editor-in-Chief Slone Terranella contributed to this report. Cover photo by Jonathan Deschaine.