April 2, 1996
Demers Lawsuit Statement
UW-River Falls Chancellor Gary A. Thibodeau announced today (April 2) that a settlement had been reached with David Pearce Demers regarding Demers' pending First Amendment lawsuit against the University and Journalism Professor J. Michael Norman.
The agreement provides for a monetary settlement paid to Demers in exchange for dismissal of his lawsuit and voluntary resignation from his current position as Assistant Professor in the Journalism Department at the end of this academic year.
"The total settlement figure ($64,000) represents a payment by UW-River Falls to Demers effectively `buying out' the one year remaining on his contract, plus a payment by the State of Wisconsin of a portion of the attorneys' fee he incurred in this litigation," Thibodeau said. In addition, the University agreed to expunge the personnel record of Demers' non-renewal by his department.
"The campus investigation of Dr. Demers' complaints against his colleagues and the results of his various grievance and appeals processes led me to conclude, without reservation of any kind, that no one at UW-River Falls violated Dr. Demers' First Amendment rights nor his academic freedoms, " Thibodeau stated.
"The issues which Dr. Demers raised were carefully considered by his faculty peers at the academic department level and by a University-wide Faculty Senate appeal group. As Chancellor, I had hoped that resolution could be reached through these mechanisms and I deeply regret that the professional differences which arose among the Journalism faculty during Dr. Demers' employment here reached such a serious level. I think it is unfortunate that we were not able to resolve the dispute between Dr. Demers and his department colleagues through our normal faculty governance and appeals channels. However, I am convinced that a jury trial verdict would have reaffirmed the judgment of our campus faculty Hearing, Grievance, and Appeals Committee in this case and that Dr. Demers' claims would not have been sustained. Nonetheless, it was important for our faculty and students to put the divisive issues which led to the disputes between Dr. Demers and his colleagues to rest. The settlement achieves that goal in a cost-effective manner," Thibodeau said.
Chancellor Thibodeau also reaffirmed the commitment of UW-River Falls to academic freedom. "We must not overlook the importance of being ever vigilant in the protection of the rights of faculty members to make themselves heard on issues of public concern," Thibodeau said.
"UW-River Falls has always been, and remains, deeply committed to the principles of academic freedom and the importance of spirited debate among faculty and students of issues affecting our society."