Dismissal or reinstatement? Decision about professor near
URBANA — The University of Illinois Board of Trustees next week will take the rare step of deciding whether or not a longtime, tenured professor will remain on the faculty.
Earlier this fall, trustees held a closed-door hearing at which they heard university lawyers present the case for dismissing engineering Professor Louis Wozniak. They also heard from Wozniak himself on why they should let him return to teaching. It was expected the board would take some kind of action on his case this month.
The last time university trustees convened a hearing to terminate tenure, which is essentially dismissal of a tenured faculty member, was believed to have occurred in the 1960s, when a professor penned an article advocating premarital sex.
In the case of Wozniak, who has been a faculty member on the Urbana campus since 1966, the university banned him from teaching in 2010. UI President Robert Easter recommended trustees terminate his tenure following several allegations of misconduct.
Wozniak said he does not plan to attend Thursday's meeting in Springfield; he felt he had an opportunity to present the facts of his case at the hearing in late September.
"I think I have a good chance. ... I feel comfortable. I'm praying for the best," he said, declining to talk further.
Wozniak is an associate professor in the Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering.
The current case originated from a dispute about a teaching award given out several years ago. University 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.
In 2011, the UI's Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, made up of campus faculty, began reviewing his case. After the year-long review, the group concluded Wozniak should keep his job and it recommended lifting Wozniak's suspension from teaching if he met certain conditions, which included refraining from talking to students about the award or publishing student information. The university claims Wozniak has not followed those conditions, which he disputes.
Easter forwarded the dismissal case earlier this year to trustees following the process outlined in Article X of the university's statutes. Article X deals with the process for terminating a faculty member's tenure and dismissing someone for cause. Per the statutes, Wozniak had the right to appeal decisions to the board of trustees.
On the board's agenda for its Thursday meeting is a "resolution regarding hearing pursuant to Article X of the University Statutes."
University spokesman Tom Hardy declined to discuss the content of the resolution, which has not been released to the public yet.
Trustees will meet in executive session Thursday morning prior to convening a full board meeting.
It is rare for trustees to become involved in the revocation of tenure or dismissal of faculty; most cases are handled prior to moving up to that level.
In the 1960s, Leo Koch, an assistant professor of biology, was fired after he 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.