Ex-Wheeling Professors Sue for Wrongful Termination

September 10, 2019

Eight former faculty members of Wheeling Jesuit University, now Wheeling University, are suing the institution and a group of its officials alleging wrongful termination. The tenured or tenure-track faculty members were let go after the 2017-18 academic year in which Wheeling declared a state of financial exigency in the spring, according to The Intelligencer.

The plaintiffs say that by terminating the positions, the university violates a clause in the handbook that stipulates that those positions should have been continued through a terminal appointment. "Tenured or tenured-track faculty members whose appointments are terminated (not for cause) are given a terminal appointment for the next academic year," reads the university's handbook. "At the discretion of the president, a faculty member may or may not be asked to teach during the terminal appointment. If the faculty member is offered the opportunity to teach, and chooses not to do so, the employment relationship is severed."

The plaintiffs are seeking damages for lost wages as well as civil penalties and legal fees.

This follows a difficult year for the struggling university. Wheeling lost its Jesuit status in April, and was only conditionally approved by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission in early August. This past spring Wheeling narrowed what degree programs it would offer to those in health, criminal justice, education and business, and cut 40 percent of its full-time faculty. Wheeling is West Virginia's only Catholic institution of higher education, and relied heavily on funding secured by former Senator Robert Byrd when he was alive.

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