Judge dismisses ex-KU professor’s lawsuit that alleged wrongful termination

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World File Photo

Strong Hall on the University of Kansas campus is shown on Sept. 13, 2018.

A judge has sided with the University of Kansas in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by a former tenure-track professor.

Cathy Joritz, who became a professor in KU’s Department of Film and Media Studies in 2012, has been representing herself in cases she’s filed against the university both in federal and local courts. Litigation in her Douglas County District Court began in June 2016, a few weeks after her last day as a KU employee.

In a recent written ruling, Chief Judge James McCabria denied Joritz’s petition for judicial review and damages for unlawful termination.

“At each stage of the review process, concerns were articulated as to the lack of sufficient research and scholarship — despite any aspirational comments in support of Professor Joritz’ goals,” the ruling states. “The record as a whole reflects these recurring statements and, in fact, fair notice to Professor Joritz that these expectations existed and were in jeopardy of not being met.

During a bench trial on Oct. 15, 2019, Joritz argued in part that her department’s mistakes and violations of policy carried from an initial faculty evaluation on up through a tiered process, resulting in her eventual termination.

However, attorney Derek Teeter, representing KU, said that the chancellor had made a ruling to terminate Joritz based on insufficient progress. Part of the requirements for tenure track include having research and projects completed and peer reviewed at least one year prior to tenure review; Teeter said that Joritz didn’t expect a book to be completed for a few years, which would have been beyond that deadline.

Teeter said that for tenure-track professors, a “creative monograph” of research is required — “not just some short films and some short papers.”

“To the extent that Professor Joritz focuses on any procedural irregularities in her earlier (progress toward tenure reviews), appeal of those reviews is not before this court,” the ruling continues. Those intermediate stages of evaluation are not final and not subject to review under the Kansas Judicial Review Act, the judge wrote.

Joritz had previously claimed in federal court that she was subjected to anti-German national origin discrimination. She is American but has spent more than 30 years in Germany, she previously told the Journal-World. A federal court judge dismissed that claim.

Federal court records indicate that Joritz’s case there is stayed, pending an appeal.

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