East Georgia College has settled with Professor Thomas Thibeault for $50,000 over his dismissal after he criticized the schools for its “flawed” sexual harassment policy, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reports. FIRE, which represented Professor Thibeault in his wrongful termination suit, says that the school retaliated against the professor after he asserted that the school’s new policy didn’t do enough to protect the accused against malicious and ridiculous complaints. Thibeault spoke up during a meeting led by the college’s Vice President for Legal Affair Mary Smith.
The next day, according to Thibeault’s complaint, “Smith began a retaliatory crusade against Thibeault. Smith summoned numerous EGC faculty and staff members to her office and demanded that they provide information about their interactions with Thibeault during his tenure with EGC.” The day after that, Thibeault was summoned to President Black’s office. According to Thibeault’s written account of the meeting, which Black received and to our knowledge never disputed, Black told Thibeault that he “was a divisive force in the college” and that he must resign by 11:30 a.m. that day or be fired and have his supposed “long history of sexual harassment … made public.”
The Moral Liberal, a blog whose aim is “to defend the Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government & the American Constitution,” praised the settlement, which, in addition to the payout, also compels the college president John Bryant Black to write Thibeault a letter of recommendation, as well as expunge from his employment record any mention of the incident. As part of the settlement, both parties agreed not to discuss the expunged documents.
This is an important victory for those who, like FIRE, believe that universities should have to treat their students and professors with a modicum of fairness and in a generally predictable way. A state university is not a fiefdom for those who run it. It is an agency of the state government, funded by your tax dollars. As such, students and their professors deserve to have their rights taken seriously by those entrusted by the public to administer our public institutions of higher education.
East Georgia College is a state college of the University System of Georgia. Located in the rural city of Swainsboro, the college serves Emanuel, Bulloch, and surrounding counties throughout east-central and southeast Georgia. As of September 14, 2011, Prof. Thibeault is not listed on the College’s directory.