Showing posts with label tenure. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tenure. Show all posts

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Don't say "I quit" unless you really mean it: Munker v. Louisiana State University System

 In 2015, Dr. Reinhold Munker was a tenured professor of medicine at the Louisiana State University Medical Center in Shreveport (LSU), where he conducted research in hematology and oncology.

Apparently, Dr. Munker's work environment was not ideal. After a staff meeting of faculty in the Hematology and Oncology Department, Dr. Munker approached Dr. Glen Mills and Dr. Gary Burton and allegedly accused Burton of not wanting him to do research. 

During this encounter, Dr. Munker said, "Well then, I'll resign, and I'll go to Minnesota or Washington where they appreciate me, and I can do research. I was brought here to do research."

Dr. Mills responded by saying, "I accept your resignation. I'd like a letter at the end of the day giving me your resignation date."

After that, a series of email messages suggested that Dr. Munker's colleagues did not consider Munker's remark to be an official notice of resignation.  

In one message, Dr. Mills said, "I prefer you to stay, but if you wish to leave then we will work out your departure date."

Dr. Jay Marion, Dr. Munker's department chair, also wrote an email message stating that "I wanted to clarify that I have not 'initiated' [Dr. Munker's] job termination or 'removal from tenure' as he suggests."

Nevertheless, three days after the verbal exchange between Dr. Munker and Dr. Mills, Dr. Munker received a hand-delivered letter from the director of human resources notifying him that he was being terminated "effective at the close of business today."

Dr. Munker sued, but a Louisiana trial judge dismissed his case. The judge ruled that Dr. Munker's statement that he intended to resign constituted a resignation:

I do deem his statement, oral statement that he will resign being sufficient and that the University did take him at his word and issued . . . a written acceptance via email that his resignation was accepted and effective on a particular date.

Dr. Munker appealed the trial judge's decision, and a Louisiana appellate court reversed.

"Contrary to [LSU's] argument," the appellate court ruled, "the correspondence indicates that neither [Dr. Munker], Dr. Mills, nor Dr. Marion considered [Dr. Munker's] statement 'I'll just resign[,]' to be an official resignation of employment."

The appellate court sent the case back to the trial judge and assessed costs against LSU.

Apparently, this dispute had a happy ending because Dr. Munker is now a is Professor of Medicine at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, where he treats patients and conducts cancer research.

I will say right now that my sympathies are entirely with Dr. Munker. The Louisiana Court of Appeals was correct to rule that the correspondence among the parties shows that neither LSU's employees nor Dr. Munker considered Munker's informal comment to be an official notice of resignation. 

In my view, LSU was wrong to seize on one casual remark as an excuse to terminate a tenured faculty member.  That decision led to three years of unnecessary litigation.

Still, Munker v. Louisiana v. Louisiana State University System is a cautionary tale for anyone who works at an exasperating job--and that is a lot of people. Usually, the best approach is to keep one's frustrations to oneself while quietly looking for a new job.  

In other words, don't say you are resigning unless you really mean it.


Munker v. Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University System, 255 So.3d 718 (La. Ct. App. 2019).


Friday, March 18, 2016

Sujit Choudhry, Dean of UC Berkeley Law School, resigns deanship in wake of sexual harassment charge but stays on faculty as tenured professor. Shouldn't he be fired?

Everyone in higher education is a progressive--the new word for liberal. Academics deplore all forms of discrimination: ageism, racism, homophobia, abilityism, etc. But the scholarly community particularly despises sexism in all its forms: sexual harassment, groping, sexist jokes, and the denigration of women in the workplace.  Several universities have harshly disciplined male students for behaving boorishly to their female classmates--sometimes without due process.

But higher education's intolerance toward sexual harassment only extends to students--not college administrators. When administrators misbehave, universities frequently try to cover up the scandal; and often the offender is asked to do no more than step down from an administrative post and return to the faculty.

And this brings me to the story of Sujit Choudhry, who stepped down as Dean of UC Berkeley Law School after he was sued for sexual harassment by a female subordinate, Tyann Sorrell. The University investigated Sorrell's complaint before she filed her lawsuit and concluded that Choudhry had indeed been guilty of sexual misconduct.

But the University just gave Choudhry a slap on the wrist. He received a 10 percent pay cut for one year--reducing his half-million dollar salary by about $50,000. Meanwhile, Sorrell, the victim in the case, was put on paid leave.

This sorry episode came to public light when Sorrell sued, arguing that the penalty against Choudhry was too light. Choudry stepped down and is now a tenured law professor at Berkeley, making a paltry $284,000 a year.

This is how the modern American university works these days. College administrators howl like Puritans at the Salem witch trials when a student behaves too aggressively toward a date at a frat party. But when an insider gets caught with his hands in the wrong places, he gets treated with kid gloves.

But let's ask this question. How did Sujit Choudhry become Dean of a prestigious law school in the first place? He is a Canadian (born in India) who doesn't even have an American law degree, although he did acquire a master's degree in law (a nine-month program) from Harvard Law School.

Choudhry is described as a renowned expert in comparative international law, and he does have a modest record of publishing law review articles.  His article entitled "Method In Comparative Constitutional Law: A Comment On Law and Versteeg," published in the New York  University Law Review, is a page-turner. And I'm sure you've read his groundbreaking essay entitled "Living Originalism in India," which was published in the Yale Journal of Law and Humanities. It's been on Best Seller lists for months.

But should an American law school pay this guy a half million dollars a year to be a dean or even a quarter million dollars a year to be a professor? And when the university concluded that he harassed a female subordinate, shouldn't he have been fired?

Among those who borrow to pay for their studies, Berkeley law students now graduate with more than $140,000 in student-loan debt. Berkeley law students now know where their money is going--to guys like Sujit Choudhry.


Nanette Aimov. UC Berkely law dean Choudhry resigns amid harassment scandal. San Francisco Chronicle, March 20, 2016. Accessible at

Sujit Choudhry. Method In Comparative Constitutional Law: A Comment On Law and Versteeg. 87 New York University Law Review 2078 (2012). Accessible at

Sujit Choudhry, Living Originalism in India? "Our Law" and Comparative Constitutional Law. 25 Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities (2013).

Jacob Gershman. UC Berkeley Law School Dean resigns Amid Sexual Harassment Complaint. Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2016. Accessible at

Jeff Schmitt. The Leaders in Student Debt. Tipping The Scales, March 31, 2014.