UI trustees to consider professor's termination
URBANA — The University of Illinois Board of Trustees is expected to decide the fate of a longtime engineering professor later this month when it convenes a dismissal hearing.
UI President Bob Easter has recommended trustees strip Professor Louis Wozniak of his tenure following several allegations of misconduct.
"If tenure is removed, I think it would end his employment status. It's fair to say it's tantamount to termination," said UI counsel Tom Bearrows.
The College of Engineering has prohibited Wozniak, an associate professor in the Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, from teaching since August 2010 following several alleged incidents. Wozniak is a UI graduate and has been a faculty member since 1966.
Administrators have claimed Wozniak, after learning he received the most student votes for a teaching award in 2009 but was not given the award, disclosed a student's grade to others and sought student support for his grievance; videotaped students without written consent; appeared before a class after he was suspended from teaching; and violated university policy by sending an email message to students in which he said students should remind him of their names because "I only remember the names of GKs I've had sex with," referring to the students as "grandkids."
Wozniak later apologized to students and said the joke was in bad taste.
After a year-long review, a faculty committee concluded that although Wozniak behaved inappropriately, he should not be fired.
"Being a self-righteous, obsessed and insensitive person is not cause to dismiss," the report said.
The Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, however, did impose certain conditions, such as refraining from talking to students about the award or publishing student information. Wozniak maintains a website, http://www.illethics.info in which he has amassed hundreds of pages of documents about his background and his case.
The university claims Wozniak has not followed those conditions, which Wozniak disputes. He also claims to have gone through those documents to remove student information, although he believes he is not legally required to do so.
UI President Bob Easter in February forwarded the charges seeking dismissal of Wozniak to trustees, citing Article 10 of the university statutes which outlines the process for when the university wants to fire a tenured professor.
A hearing before trustees represents the last step in the university's process for firing a tenured professor.
"At the end of the day, the board is the ultimate decision maker on this," Bearrows said.
A tenure dismissal case before trustees is rare; most are settled quietly before reaching the president or trustees.
The last time trustees heard a dismissal case is believed to have occurred in the early 1960s after Leo Koch, an assistant professor of biology, advocated for premarital sex in a letter to the Daily Illini student newspaper. After the UI fired Koch, the American Association of University Professors censured the university for what it said was a lack of due process.
The trustees are expected to meet in closed session for Wozniak's hearing because the subject is personnel. Public notice will be posted 48 hours in advance of the meeting.
Wozniak is hoping to delay the hearing, and he and his lawyer are asking for more time to prepare. He also said he needs more time to present his case during the actual hearing. He said he will be given 40 minutes: 20 minutes to present his case and 20 minutes for cross-examination.
"The major defense is that CAFT (Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure) trying to put a muzzle order on me is not legal," Wozniak said.
Wozniak said he's still open to a settlement. He wants to return to teaching, have his legal fees paid and have an engineering administrator involved in the teaching award removed from her position.
"I dearly would like to get back to class. I love my students and they love me," Wozniak.