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Washington State U. to Pay Professor $120,000 to Settle Free-Speech Lawsuit

Washington State University will pay a former journalism professor $120,000 to drop a free-speech lawsuit against four administrators, according to a news release from the American Civil Liberties Union.

David K. Demers, who filed the suit in 2009, said he had faced illegal retaliation for statements he made about the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication’s leadership structure, among other things. Washington State’s administration argued that employment-related statements were not protected by the First Amendment. The case eventually made it to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which ruled in Mr. Demers’s favor.

“I am extremely pleased with the settlement,” Mr. Demers said in the ACLU release. “It sends a strong message to university administrators that those who intend to violate professors’ free-speech rights will be held accountable.”

According to the news release, Mr. Demers was forced to file for bankruptcy last spring under the weight of $350,000 in legal bills. Under his agreement with Washington State, all of the money from the settlement will go toward Mr. Demers’s legal fees.

A university spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an email from The Chronicle seeking comment.

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