On April 14, 2023, Ohio Northern University’s administration informed Scott Gerber, a tenured law professor, that he was suspended and banned from campus. According to his lawyers, Gerber was not informed of the reasons for this decision.
Campus security and two town police officers reportedly entered Gerber’s classroom and escorted him to a meeting with the law school dean, Charles H. Rose III. During the meeting, the dean gave Gerber a memorandum initiating his suspension and reportedly told the professor he had to resign or would be fired. The memorandum Gerber received alleges that he “repeatedly violated the provisions of the ONU Faculty Handbook and ONU Staff Handbook governing collegiality” and that his “conduct rises to a level sufficient to support separation” per the Faculty Handbook.
Gerber’s suspension comes three months after an independent investigation into him by an outside law firm on undisclosed grounds. The firm’s attorney requested that Gerber partake in a voluntary interview; he declined, noting that the reasons for the investigation had not been disclosed to him. Gerber was notified on February 10, 2023, that the investigation was completed, and that his lack of participation could have career-related implications.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the termination of a professor on undisclosed grounds, as well as the reported use of law enforcement to escort a professor out of his classroom. University authorities have an obligation to employ transparent, fair processes when engaging in disciplinary action and to refrain from intimidatory actions that may chill the exercise of academic freedom. In addition to harm to the immediate victim, suspensions stemming from such activity undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.