Calling on precedents spanning the last half-century, Antioch University formally filed a motion to dismiss in response to a lawsuit collective brought forward by tenured faculty of Antioch College.
Filed 15 days before a deadline set by the Green County Court of Pleas, the motion demonstrates the university’s alacrity for a fight, presenting the first, if preliminary, obstacle to the faculty’s bid for an injunction to force the university to follow faculty employment contracts. As a second point of contention, the injunction seeks to prevent the university from liquidating assets the college currently uses.
The class action, filed in mid-August, would require the university to keep the college open by “implementing the least drastic means” of dealing with the current financial crisis.
Professor Peter Townsend, a leader in the faculty effort, said the motion to dismiss was a normal step to take.
The memorandum supporting the motion maintains that even if the court views the Faculty Personnel Policies and Procedures as an employment contract, as the faculty claim, the potential “breach of contract” is not a matter within the Court’s jurisdiction.
Drawing ties between the present and past financial crises involving Antioch College, the university cites a case from 1975 between Daniel Sokolowsky, a then-tenured faculty member and the college. Professor Sokolowsky did not have his contract renewed during a period of “bad financial conditions and certain program changes at the college.” He responded by filing suit against the College, seeking an injunction to retain his employment. The Court of Appeals of Greene County subsequently dismissed the complaint on the basis that it is not the duty of the court to enforce contracts for “personal services.”
In 1940, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) created a revised Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which in part states that a tenured faculty member’s termination “because of financial exigency should be demonstrably bona fide.” The faculty of the college, with the support of the AAUP, have voiced their dismay at the alleged failure of the university to consider alternative and less drastic measures than filing financial exigency for the college and suspending operations by July 2008.