Kansas Supreme Court upholds dismissal of KU assistant professor

TOPEKA – The Kansas Supreme Court this week upheld the University of Kansas’ dismissal of an assistant professor in molecular biology in 2010 due to insufficient academic research and publishing.

Edina Harsay began teaching at KU in 2004 when she was hired for a tenure-track position in the department of molecular biology. When she came up for tenure review five years later, she reported having only one article published in a scientific journal, one other that had been accepted for publication and a manuscript that was still under consideration.

She also reported being awarded $600,000 in grants from the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association, which various review committees at KU determined to be insufficient to sustain ongoing academic scholarship.

On a less-than-unanimous vote, a review panel made up of peers from outside KU recommended that she be granted tenure and promotion to associate professor. But KU uses a multilayered review process, and other review committees at the departmental, college and university levels all recommended against promoting and retaining her.

Finally, in April 2010, KU’s interim Provost Danny J. Anderson informed Harsay that then-Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little had decided not to grant her tenure and to terminate her employment.

Harsay appealed to Douglas County District Court under the Kansas Judicial Review Act, which gives courts the authority to review state agency actions, claiming that she hadn’t been given proper credit for all of her academic work. But the case was dismissed in June 2012 for “lack of prosecution,” meaning she and her attorney had not followed through on the case.

Six months later, Harsay refiled the case, relying on a “savings statute” that allows plaintiffs to refile a case if it’s dismissed for any reason other than the merits, but the district court denied that motion.

In 2016, though, a panel of the Kansas Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s decision and remanded the case back to the university for reconsideration.

KU then appealed to the state Supreme Court, which ruled on Wednesday — more than eight years after Harsay’s dismissal — saying there was substantial evidence to support the university’s decision.


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