Lamar substitutes counsel in professor’s tenure suit

By David Yates | Apr 22, 2015

Lamar University recently substituted counsel in a suit alleging a professor was denied tenure because he opposed the use of Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) to screen incoming students.

Assistant Attorney General Susan Watson first represented Lamar.

Court records show that on Feb. 27 the Beaumont university filed a notice of substitution of counsel, stating the case had been reassigned to Michael Neil, also an assistant attorney general.

According to the complaint filed Aug. 28 in Jefferson County District Court, plaintiff Steve Jenkins alleges he was working for Lamar University where he was elected to serve as chairman of the Department of Educational Leadership in December 2010.

At the time of his appointment, Jenkins was recommended for tenure.

Jenkins was forced to resign from his position on May 31, 2013, due to a serious medical condition that required regular therapeutic treatments, the suit states.

However, he continued to participate in his non-administrative duties and filed for a promotion to the rank of full professor with its accompanying tenure status.

Although a majority of the university’s tenured faculty voted in favor of Jenkins’ tenure and promotion, three people, including his dean, opposed it. Jenkins says the votes cast against him were due to his opposition of the college’s requirement that its student graduate applicants successfully complete the GRE, according to the complaint.

“The requirement of the GRE as a threshold discriminatory entry requirement into LU’s graduate program is a practice designed to exclude or limit downstream employment of minority professional educator administrators by the public schools of the state of Texas,” the suit states.

Because of his tenure denial, Jenkins alleges he suffered mental anguish.

He seeks a judgment in excess of the minimum jurisdictional limits of Jefferson County District Court, plus compensatory damages, attorney fees, costs and pre- and post-judgment interest at the highest rate allowed by law.

Larry Watts and Melissa Azadeh of Watts and Company Lawyers in Missouri City represent him.

Case No. E196-060

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