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Dismissal of lawsuit prompts appeal by Antioch faculty

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The former faculty of Antioch College recently appealed a November decision from the Greene County Common Pleas Court to dismiss the faculty lawsuit against Antioch University. The appeal, filed several weeks ago, will take about eight or nine months to work its way through the court system, according to Attorney Evan Price of Columbus, who represents the faculty.

On Nov. 26 Judge Stephen Wolaver of the Common Pleas Court dismissed the faculty lawsuit, which alleges that the university trustees breached their contractural responsibilities to faculty by declaring a state of financial exigency and suspending operations when less drastic measures were available, and also by making this decision without consulting faculty. These actions violated contractual obligations as stated in the Faculty Personnel Policies and Procedures, the lawsuit said.

The suit had originally been filed in August, 2007, two months after Antioch University leaders announced that the college would close due to financial exigency. Faculty dropped the lawsuit for several months in November 2007 after the college alumni group and university trustees reached an agreement to keep the college open; however, that agreement later fell apart, and the lawsuit was re-filed in March 2008 after the breakdown of talks between the trustees and the Antioch College Continuation Corporation, or AC3.

The Nov. 26 dismissal of the faculty lawsuit is based on procedural considerations rather than the facts of the case, Price said in a recent interview. Specifically, Judge Wolaver stated the court lacks the authority to intervene in the operations of the college, and should not second-guess the business decisions of the university trustees. The dismissal also states it is not appropriate for the court to intervene in contracts for personal services.

According to former Antioch College faculty member Bob Devine, the faculty legal committee unanimously voted to appeal the dismissal because they believe that Wolaver’s decision reflects a misreading of the suit.

For instance, he said, the faculty lawsuit did not request that the court intervene in individual contracts. Rather, the lawsuit asserts the university violated the collective bargaining agreement between the entire faculty and the university administration as set out in the Faculty Personnel Policies.

“We were never about the personal damages. We were about keeping the institution open,” he said. “It was a breach of contract with the entire faculty regarding the lack of consultation.”

The dismissal also indicates a misunderstanding in that the judge interpreted the suit as an invitation for the court to step in and intervene in the running of the college, which he deemed inappropriate. However, faculty had not made that request, Devine said.

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