By Terrie Morgan-Besecker at The Times-Tribune.com
A former Marywood University professor fired after he posted a satirical video that criticized school President Sister Anne Munley, I.H.M., has filed a federal lawsuit accusing the school of violating its disciplinary policy.
Frederick F. Fagal Jr., Ph.D., was fired on April 3, 2012, about three months after he sent an email to fellow faculty members that criticized the university’s decision to remove posters he put up announcing a guest lecturer for one of his classes. The email included a link to two videos he posted on YouTube critical of Sister Munley and several other administrators.
The lawsuit, filed by attorney Jonathan Cohen of Wayne, says Dr. Fagal’s troubles began in November 2011 after he posted posters on campus advertising that a speaker from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education would give a presentation at Dr. Fagal’s introduction to social science course. University staff tore down the posters soon after they were posted. Dr. Fagal, a tenured professor at the school since 1994, complained about the action and sought an apology, but the university refused.
On Jan. 13, 2012, Dr. Fagal sent an email criticizing the university’s administration for tearing down the posters and for its “weak commitment to free speech generally,” the lawsuit says. The email included a link to the videos, which were created by replacing English subtitles corresponding to scenes from a “well-known foreign movie.”
Suspension and firing
Ten days later, Dr. Fagal was notified that Sister Munley had suspended him. The next day she sent him a letter advising him she was going to recommend he be fired. A second letter sent Feb. 8 included a statement of charges alleging, among other things, that Dr. Fagal violated the university’s civil rights policy, the suit says. No employee ever filed a civil rights complaint against him after the Jan. 13, 2012, email.
The lawsuit, filed on Dec. 17, claims the action was taken without any attempt by Marywood to take remedial actions to resolve the issues that led to the suspension. That violated the university’s disciplinary policy, which requires a series of gradual steps, including personal conferences and oral and written warnings, prior to any suspension, the suit says.
The suit says Dr. Fagal filed a grievance alleging he was improperly suspended. The grievance was denied by the university’s grievance committee on March 26, 2012. Sister Munley then wrote Dr. Fagal on April 3, 2012, affirming her decision to fire him.
Juneann Greco, spokeswoman for Marywood, said Friday the university does not comment on personnel issues.
The suits seeks damages for breach of contract, including back pay, and to have Dr. Fagal reinstated.