Assistant professor files suit against local university board, chancellor

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Reporter - Kendall Downing

CARBONDALE, Ill. - An assistant professor at SIU-Carbondale is turning to the courts in her fight for tenure. Dr. Laura Hatcher filed a federal lawsuit Friday against the SIU Board of Trustees and SIU-Carbondale Chancellor Rita Cheng, alleging sex discrimination, retaliation, and denial of due process rights.

Hatcher believes she didn't get tenure because she's a woman. Her attorney said all her client wants is the tenure which she believes she earned.

"There has only been one tenured woman in that department. Obviously there is something wrong in political science," said Shari Rhode, attorney for Dr. Laura Hatcher.

Hatcher's picture is still hanging right outside the department office in Faner Hall. But it won't be come the middle of May.

Rhode claims Dr. Hatcher had positive reviews for tenure at the department level, with the department chair, and with a faculty group. But the dean of the College of Liberal Arts ignored the positive findings and sent that on to the university's provost, who denied tenure.

Meanwhile, Rhode said another male assistant professor with less qualifications was given tenure.

A judicial review board then voted five to zero to grant Dr. Hatcher tenure, but that didn't happen.

Rhode said Chancellor Rita Cheng is being sued specifically in the complaint because she stepped in and reversed the review board's decision.

"She put herself into the process where she had no role," said Rhode.

Rhode tells Local 6 all Dr. Hatcher wants is to stay in the classroom at SIU-Carbondale.

As for the next step, the university will get its chance to file a response. Rhode said court dates will be set after that.

Local 6 reached out to the general counsel at Southern Illinois University. They said, because the matter is pending, they would not comment. A spokesperson for Chancellor Rita Cheng declined to comment, citing that it is a personnel matter.

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