The Dawes County District Court on Friday effectively ended a 17-month dispute between fired Chadron State College professor Robert McEwen and the college’s governing body, the Nebraska State College System.
Finding in favor of the NSCS, the ruling states, “The Court finds that the Plaintiff’s (McEwen’s) Petition in Error should be and hereby is overruled. Any relief not specifically granted herein is denied.”
McEwen declined to provide a reaction about the ruling before consulting his attorney.
McEwen may appeal the ruling to the state Court of Appeals, and said that he “is still contemplating his options at this time.”
McEwen, a former tenured, 28-year-veteran professor of English and Humanities at CSC, was fired in March 2016, court documents show. Those documents further show his termination was based on two separate discrimination complaints. The first was filed by two international students in spring 2015 who claimed “discrimination due to foreign status,” court records show. The second was filed in fall 2015 by a non-traditional, female student, who claimed “the plaintiff was discriminating against her for age and gender,” court records show.
McEwen received a verbal reprimand after the first complaint; he was removed from campus after the second, court records show.
On Nov. 13, 2015, McEwen requested a hearing before an advisory committee to review the termination process. That hearing took place over three days, Feb. 25-27, 2016. Six days later, on March 4, 2016, the advisory committee unanimously recommended to CSC President Randy Rhine that McEwen be fired.
Wednesday afternoon, Rhine declined to comment on the Court’s ruling.
In October 2016, McEwen filed a suit against the NSCS, claiming that proper procedures as stated in Article 17.3 of the faculties’ State College Education Association collective bargaining agreement, were not followed.
Article 17.3 of the CBA states: “Prior to giving a faculty member notice of a recommendation for dismissal, the Dean shall meet privately and discuss recommendation with the faculty member. The matter may be reconciled by mutual consent.”
According to court documents, McEwen claimed that “private” meant that the meeting could only be between himself and Margetts. His interpretation of “private” was one reason for his suit, which specifically challenged “both the sufficiency of the process afforded him and the evidence offered against him,” court documents show.
The NSCS denied that neither the process nor the evidence lacked sufficiency.
Court records show that in addition to McEwen and School of Liberal Arts Dean James Margetts, CSC’s Vice President of Academic Affairs Charles Snare, and Physical and Life Sciences Professor Joyce Hardy, who was serving as McEwen’s auditor, attended the meeting.
Margetts declined to comment Wednesday afternoon, citing NSCS policies governing personnel matters.
In a phone interview Wednesday morning, McEwen said Hardy did not attend the 17.3 meeting, that only he, Margetts and Snare attended.
Wednesday afternoon, Hardy said that she “was at two meetings with McEwen and the administration,” but wasn’t present when the discussion of dismissal took place.
“Neither of those meetings involved discussion of dismissal,” Hardy said. “So technically at the conversation that McEwen had with Dean Margetts that discussed the potential of Dr. McEwen being dismissed, I was not there.”
However, according to the court records, because the meeting took place “behind closed doors,” because there was no record kept, and because neither Snare nor Hardy participated in the meeting, the Court found McEwen’s claim meritless.