The University of Oregon settled a lawsuit filed by a professor who claims she was forced out of her job for calling attention to financial irregularities in a graduate program.
The university denied the allegations, and under the settlement agreement admits no wrongdoing, The Register-Guard newspaper reported today.
Professor Jean Stockard, who filed the suit last year, claimed administrators and faculty retaliated against her after she reported the problems, forcing her to resign as head of the department of planning, public policy and management.
The lawsuit sought $1 million in damages. Stockard's attorney, Craig Crispin, wrote in an e-mail that the settlement was for half that much.
According to the suit, Stockard reported that visiting scholars from South Korea complained they were charged for services that should have been covered by their tuition. The students had paid up to $20,000 each to take part in a program known as the Institute for Policy Research and Innovation. The scholars also said they did not receive the training they paid for.
Stockard brought the problems to university administrators and then to the secretary of state's fraud and abuse division. The Oregon University System subsequently examined the program and found a number of accounting errors. The university corrected the problems, and the institute continues to operate.
The university later asked Stockard to step down as department head. When she refused, Stockard said, the university and other faculty retaliated to the point where she decided to retire.
University officials said the request had to do with faculty concerns about Stockard's leadership. They said she was right to raise questions about the program.
Although the university admits no wrongdoing in the settlement, Crispin said the payment suggests otherwise.
"We believe, despite the continued denial of wrongdoing, that the payment of a total of $500,000 ... is objective demonstration that Dr. Stockard was wronged by the administration and that the wrongdoing was in retaliation for her advocacy against treatment of the Korean scholars," Crispin wrote in an e-mail to The Register-Guard.
The UO declined to answer questions about the settlement, which was negotiated by the Oregon Department of Justice.
Professor settles lawsuit against UO