JEFFERSON CITY — A former University of Missouri assistant professor, who was denied tenure after publishing an article without citing a graduate student's work, lost an appeal that sought to overturn his discharge.
The Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District upheld a summary judgment in favor of the university and officials in a wrongful termination case brought by Dylan Kesler.
According to the ruling issued on April 18, the former assistant professor had been employed in the university's Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences department from September 2007 to September 2015.
While Kesler's application for tenure was being reviewed in 2014, he was subject to research misconduct proceedings involving allegations of plagiarism and "other misconduct," the ruling states. A review committee cleared him of plagiarism charges in a 7-2 vote in June, but the committee also unanimously found that he engaged in "other unacceptable behavior."
The ruling goes on to state that Kesler's treatment of a graduate student was "unacceptable" for publishing a sole-authored article without referencing that student's work.
After he was denied tenure in July 2014, he received a one-year terminal contract that expired Sept. 1, 2015.
Kesler sued the university twice in Boone County Circuit Court. The first suit brought in September 2014 sought new tenure review proceedings, a stay on his pending dismissal and the restoration of his reputation following misconduct proceedings. The appeals court ruling states that it was litigated "extensively," before the circuit court entered judgment against Kesler.
His subsequent suit, which was subject of his appeal, sought damages for wrongful discharge, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, tortious interference with an employment expectancy, primia facie tort and civil conspiracy.
Boone County Circuit Judge Kevin Crane ultimately found in favor of the university and its curators.
Appeals court Chief Judge Mark Pfeiffer and Judges Lisa Hardwick and Gary Witt agreed with the lower court.
“Kesler litigated the denial of his tenure and the alleged failure to restore his reputation in Kesler I,” the ruling states. “He lost on the merits, and there is nothing unfair about holding him to that result.”