Professor Prevails in Anti-Bias Lawsuit Over University’s Denial of Promotion

A federal jury in North Carolina on Thursday sided with a professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington who asserted in a lawsuit that the institution had discriminated against him by denying him a promotion based on his writings and religious views, the Star-News, a Wilmington newspaper, reported.

Michael S. Adams, an associate professor of criminology, sued the university in 2007, saying it had denied him a promotion to full professor because of his Christian beliefs and his conservative writings. A federal judge threw out his lawsuit in 2010, finding that because the professor had included his writings in his application for promotion, they could be considered work-related speech that was not protected under the First Amendment.

About a year later, a federal appeals court overturned that ruling, in a decision that faculty advocates hailed as a key win for professors’ free-speech rights. On Thursday a jury ruled in Mr. Adams’s favor, agreeing that his speech was a “substantial or motivating factor” in the university’s decision not to promote him.

Mr. Adams told the newspaper that he was “really thrilled” by the jury’s decision. In a statement, the university said it disagreed with the verdict and would explore its options for an appeal.

The university “strongly believes that its faculty properly applied their academic judgment in determining that Dr. Adams’s application did not merit promotion to full professor in 2006 and firmly denies that Dr. Adams’s political or religious viewpoints played any role whatsoever in the decision,” the statement said. “The university was, is, and will continue to be committed to the proposition that faculty are to be evaluated on their merit, regardless of their respective political or religious views or commentary.”

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