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Former IU Northwest professor sues university, says he was fired for criticisms on diversity and racism

A former communications professor at Indiana University Northwest in Gary has sued the university, charging it retaliated after he exercised his First Amendment rights. 

Mark McPhail spoke out against racism and diversity at IU and was critical of the selection of the person appointed to lead a reorganized School of the Arts.  

Employment attorney at Kapitan Gomaa Law, Rima Kapitan, said both the constitutional standard of due process and IU’s procedures provide for the right to notice of wrongdoing and a hearing before a neutral decision-maker. None of that occurred in McPhail case, she said.  

“[He] had no idea what he was being accused of, what the evidence was against him, had no opportunity to respond to it before he was fired. That's just outrageous, especially at a public institution,” Kapitan said. “It has implications for all faculty, for all students at IU, for administrators as well who aren't willing to do the bidding for the administration or who say something that the administration doesn't like.” 

McPhail, who was hired in 2015 as executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, raised concerns regarding deficiencies and disparities relating to African-American students at IU Northwest. McPhail resigned from the vice chancellor position, citing a lack of response to his concerns and stating the position did not align with his personal values.  

McPhail became a tenured communications professor. Through the lawsuit, he is seeking reinstatement to his tenured position and damages to compensate loss of salary.  

“I was hired as a tenured professor. Tenure provides protections. Those protections were violated,” McPhail said.

He wants his professor job back.

McPhail and Kapitan see this case as an opportunity to correct a violation of IU’s own policies and procedures, which they say has consequences for all members of the IU community.  

IU spokesperson Chuck Carney told WFIU/WTIU the university declines to comment, as this case is “an ongoing personnel matter that is currently under litigation.” 

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