Board of Regents agree to provide financial protection for Emporia State president in lawsuits related to tenure dismissals

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The campus of Emporia State University is shown in this September 2022 photo.

As lawsuits hang over Emporia State University and its decision to dismiss about 30 university faculty members, there’s a chance the ESU president may be found personally liable in some of the cases.

If so, the Kansas Board of Regents made clear that the state will pay for any damages or legal fees ESU President Ken Hush incurs from the legal actions.

The Regents on Wednesday unanimously approved a one-page agreement between Hush and the Board of Regents that says the Regents will reimburse Hush for any “attorney fees, costs and expenses” related to any lawsuits filed against him regarding the matter.

The agreement also says the Regents will “pay any judgement taken against Hush that is for punitive or exemplary damages for the violation of the civil rights laws of the United States if the Board finds that the action or proceeding arose out of an act or omission in the scope of Hush’s employment, Hush reasonably cooperated in good faith in the defense of the claim, and Hush’s act or omission was not the result of actual fraud or actual malice.”

The Regents approved the agreement with no comment or discussion after coming out of a brief executive session with their attorney at Wednesday’s monthly meeting of the Regents.

Eleven former ESU professors filed a federal lawsuit in July alleging that they were improperly targeted for dismissal by Hush and university leaders. The dismissals were part of a larger round of layoffs that totaled 30 tenured or tenure-track professors at ESU in 2022. The terminations were made under a special provision approved by the Kansas Board of Regents that allowed state universities to suspend tenure — which generally gives faculty members enhanced job protections. The special provision was first approved by the Regents during the pandemic but was extended as universities continued to struggle with pandemic-related enrollment impacts that had strained the finances of some universities.

ESU was the only Regents university to use the special provision, and the dismissals created protests among students and other faculty members who said ESU’s academic standing would be damaged by suspending the tenure provisions.

ESU officials at the time of the cuts said they were making strategic decisions about the university’s workforce at a time when the university was facing some “very serious financial challenges.”

The Regents have since ended the special provision that allows for such dismissals of tenured faculty members.


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