WISCONSIN — An adviser who lost his job after helping journalism students cover controversial stories settled his claim against the university in March for $64,000.
The University of Wisconsin at River Falls is paying David Demers to drop his federal First Amendment lawsuit against the university and journalism chair J. Michael Norman.
“I am extremely pleased with the settlement,” said Demers. “I hope this serves as a warning to administrators at other institutions that violations of the First Amendment cannot be tolerated.”
“The total settlement figure represents a payment by UW-River Falls to Demers effectively ‘buying out’ the one year remaining on his contract, plus a payment by the State of Wisconsin of a portion of the attorneys’ fee he incurred in this litigation,” said Chancellor Gary A. Thibodeau.
“This was an important case because it demonstrates that colleges must respect First Amendment rights,” said Demers’ attorney, Marshall H. Tanick. “It is ironic that a journalism department, which supposedly teaches students about the First Amendment, should have to learn such a costly lesson this way.”
Demers said a portion of the damages settlement will be used to set up First Amendment scholarship funds at the University of Wisconsin and nationally.
“It was unfortunate that this matter could not be resolved before this,” Demers said. “But I am extremely pleased that we will be able to set up some scholarships to help journalism students pay for college and remind administrators for years to come of the importance of respecting the First Amendment.”