TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Prof Wins Another Round In Lawsuits Claiming Texas Tech Retaliated Against Him For His Opposition To Tenure

WWFollowing up on my previous post, Chaired Professor Wages Court Battle Against Tenure:  Inside Higher Ed, Texas Tech Professor Who Says University Punished Him For Opposing Tenure Can Take Case To Trial:

In another legal win for the Texas Tech University professor who hates tenure, a Texas appeals court green-lit his state-level suit against the institution this week for trial. The decision, written by Justice James T. Campbell, reverses a lower court’s dismissal of James Wetherbe’s retaliation case against Texas Tech. “Because we find Wetherbe alleged his challenged speech on tenure touched on a matter of public concern and because we ascribe no merit to appellees’ responsive arguments, we sustain Wetherbe’s issue,” the decision says.

Wetherbe, Richard Schulze Distinguished Professor of Business, has long been a critic of the tenure system, especially in business schools, on the grounds that it can limit innovation. He’s shared his opinions on campus and off, including in high-profile op-eds.

Saying that he lost out on professional opportunities because of his public comments and op-eds against tenure, Wetherbe sued Texas Tech for retaliation in a federal court in 2012. That suit was dismissed in 2014 on the grounds that Wetherbe's comments against tenure through 2012 weren't substantive enough to back up the retaliation claims. But a second suit alleging continued retaliation was revived last year by a federal appeals court, based on a decision similar in its logic to Campbell’s.

Wetherbe’s state-level suit says that Texas Tech further retaliated against him for comments against tenure he continued to make after filing the federal complaint. Among other claims, Wetherbe says he was demoted to a “professor of the practice,” denied access to data pertaining to a specific scholarship fund and removed from various leadership roles and as professor of an M.B.A. skills communication course.

As it did in the federal case, Texas Tech argued that Wetherbe’s comments on tenure were not a matter of public concern, but merely pursuant to his employment and therefore not protected by the First Amendment. ...

Wetherbe said that a dean he blames for much of the retaliation has now left the university for unrelated reasons, and that he’s anxious to settle. Texas Tech’s model seems to be to play out all legal options in hopes that he’ll give up, he added, “but I’ve run marathons. I don’t look like it now, but I’m used to running marathons.”

Legal Education | Permalink


Can't he renounce tenure on his own?

Posted by: mike | Apr 5, 2018 12:33:33 PM

I hope he gets a better result than Mike Leach.

Posted by: Joe Bob | Apr 5, 2018 1:00:47 PM

I have a new hero. I'm against Licensing, Unions, Tenure, any of these "Pull up the ladder of success behind you" mechanisms.

Posted by: West | Apr 6, 2018 8:57:37 AM

Tenure is truly evil in that it is reserved to so few ...

Posted by: Enrique | Apr 6, 2018 8:31:47 PM