Court Upholds Firing of ‘Intimidating’ Professor

     (CN) – The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the firing of an Indiana University professor who yelled at his students and responded to harassment allegations by writing in a letter to the editor: “Have you ever noticed that almost all of the women who claim to be sexually harassed are physically ugly?”

     H. Daniel Cohen was a tenured physics professor with the university’s South Bend campus in 1987. He also served as chancellor. He was stripped of that title in 1994 after a female student accused him of forcibly kissing her and groping her breasts.
     Cohen remained as a professor after a one-year sabbatical. However, another female student, J.G., accused him in 1999 of discriminating against her based on gender and religion.
     An investigative report by the school’s Affirmative Action Office found that Cohen “swore in class, made religious references to himself … (and) was authoritarian, condescending, and demeaning in his responses to some students.”
     One year later, another group of students complained to the school’s chancellor that Cohen “discourages questions and intimidates his students.”
     The South Bend Tribune published an article about Cohen on March 8, 2001, and the professor fired back in a letter to the editor: “Have you ever noticed that almost all of the women who claim to be sexually harassed are physically ugly? I guess they just need to deny their lack of attractiveness to the opposite sex, and to use this method to get the attention and money they cannot otherwise command.”
     That day, Cohen saw J.G. taking a math test, stood in the doorway, and stared her down, he admitted, for “five seconds.”
     J.G., who was en route to getting an A on the test, made several mistakes on the final page after the visual encounter. She again complained to the school.
     Two months later, after a 20-hour faculty board hearing in which more accusations flew about Cohen’s behavior, he lost his job.
     Cohen sued the university for firing him without reason, in violating of the university’s agreement to let him return after his sabbatical. The trial court denied the university’s motion for summary judgment.
     The agreement states that if Cohen returned, he would come back “as a professor of physics, with tenure with the rights and responsibilities attendant to that position.” Judge Brown said this clause clearly and unambiguously allows the university to fire him for failing to meet those responsibilities.
     “The university did not breach the agreement by dismissing Cohen on that basis,” Brown wrote, “and the university was entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”

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