Federal judge dismisses former chancellor's suit

Thursday, July 11, 2002

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A federal judge has dismissed a $4.4 million lawsuit filed against Southern Illinois University by former chancellor Jo Ann Argersinger.

Argersinger, who filed the lawsuit almost two years ago in Springfield, claimed that her rights were violated when she was fired from her job at SIU's Carbondale campus in June 1999.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Jeanne Scott ruled in favor of the university's motion to dismiss the case.

Argersinger's attorney, Ron Osman of Marion, Ill., was surprised by the ruling.

"This came out of the blue," he said. "We had a good case. We thought we had enough to go to a jury trial and win."

The judge ruled there was insufficient evidence that trustees violated Argersinger's free speech rights.

At the time of Argersinger's firing, then-SIU president Ted Sanders said it was prompted by her not keeping him informed about major decisions and he accused her encouraging divisions between the school's campuses and between employees and administration.

Osman said they have not decided whether to appeal Scott's ruling.

"I wouldn't be surprised if we do appeal, though," he said.

Argersinger and her husband, Peter, teach history at the university's Carbondale campus.

In a separate state lawsuit, a Jackson County judge had ruled in April that university trustees violated state law when they fired Argersinger.

The trustees admitted they did not obey the Illinois Open Meetings Act in their meetings that led to the firing. The trustees must meet in public and give notice of meetings because they supervise universities that use public money.

As part of an out-of-court agreement in that lawsuit, university trustees agreed not to violate the law again.

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