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MU College of Engineering Professor Terminated for Misconduct

Decision was made after rigorous process; included appeals and presentation before the Board of Curators

September 11th, 2017

Story Contact: Christian Basi, 573-882-4430, BasiC@missouri.edu

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Following a rigorous process that lasted nearly a year and included a unanimous recommendation by a 12-member faculty committee, University of Missouri leaders have fired Galen Suppes, a professor of chemical engineering. The decision was made based on determinations that, among other things, Suppes engaged in conduct toward engineering students, faculty and staff that violated University rules aimed at protecting the work and learning environment. Suppes was a tenured faculty member.

“Dr. Suppes’ misconduct has impacted many of our students, staff and faculty over a very long period of time,” said Elizabeth Loboa, dean of the College of Engineering. “As educators and employers, we want to promote an environment where individuals can thrive. We could not allow his behavior to continue impacting our community. After numerous attempts to counsel Dr. Suppes over the last several years, I became convinced that this action had to be taken.”

Loboa was hired as dean of the College of Engineering in October 2015. Immediately after her arrival, she commenced a “listening tour” of the college, meeting with faculty and staff. During the listening tour, she heard numerous reports of complaints and concerns about Suppes’ behavior. After reviewing the evidence regarding the reports, in accordance with University of Missouri Collected Rules and Regulations, Loboa sent Suppes a notice of initial charges on Sept. 2, 2016. The following is a timeline of the process.

Sept. 2, 2016 – Loboa sends Suppes notice of charges initiating the “dismissal for cause” proceeding.

Sept. 29, 2016 – Suppes files lawsuit in state court seeking to stop the dismissal for cause proceeding.

Nov. 18, 2016 – The state court dismisses Suppes’ lawsuit. Suppes subsequently files an appeal with the Missouri Court of Appeals.

Dec. 8, 2016 – Suppes files a formal answer to the charges.

Dec. 14, 2016 – April 17, 2017 – a series of nine hearings takes place. In total, more than 50 hours of hearings are completed.

March 8, 2017 – Loboa files a second amended charge.

May 15, 2017 – MU Faculty Committee on Tenure, comprised of 12 faculty members from across the MU campus, unanimously recommended terminating Suppes.

May 25, 2017 – Interim Chancellor Garnett Stokes issues her decision, terminating Suppes’ employment at MU; Suppes subsequently appeals the decision.

June 20, 2017 – The Missouri Court of Appeals rules against Suppes’ appeal from the Nov. 18 state court decision.

July 12, 2017 – UM President Mun Choi upholds Stokes’ May 25 decision. Suppes subsequently appeals to the UM Board of Curators.

Aug. 15, 2017 – Suppes appears before the Board of Curators.

Aug. 18, 2017 – Board of Curators upholds the decision.

“This has never been about academic freedom,” Loboa said. “As a faculty member and higher education administrator, I value the importance of academic freedom and the ability it gives faculty members to seek answers to questions that might be controversial. Dr. Suppes has never been a victim of censorship, nor has anyone at our university ever taken any action against him based on the content of his scholarship. This action was about promoting a place where our students can learn with enthusiasm, our faculty can teach and study successfully, and our staff can provide support effectively, creating an environment that is beneficial to everyone on campus. It is vital that we do this as we train the next generation of engineers and find the answers to problems that Missourians are facing.”

Misconduct charges and findings are described in documents from the dismissal proceeding that are being released along with this statement.  The University is making documents available to the extent it can while respecting the privacy of other individuals involved in the process.

“It has been our policy for many years not to release information about why individuals leave the university,” Provost Garnett S. Stokes said. “We have decided to make an exception in this case because we believe it is in the interest of the public and our campus community to know the details of the dismissal, and because Dr. Suppes himself has made public statements about the matter. We value tenure very highly at Mizzou, and it is only in unusual cases that we believe this type of action is warranted. By his own conduct, Dr. Suppes was interfering with the ability of our students to learn; our staff to work; and our faculty to teach, conduct their research, and engage in service activities. As a result, we believed it was our duty to take this action to improve Mizzou’s working and learning climate.”

Editor’s note: Documents associated with this release are below.

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