A Peacock's Tale: Due Process and Free Speech in Academe

Alan A. Matheson

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law


Arizona State Law Journal, p. 401, 1986

The 1973 dismissal of Dr. Erie E. Peacock, Jr., as Head of the Department of Surgery at the University of Arizona College of Medicine set in motion a long, bitter, and expensive dispute. The struggle involved preliminary motions in federal district court, jury trials, four appeals to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and administrative hearings at the University. In the process, courts and faculty panels considered the issues of protected interests in administrative and teaching positions, procedural due process, academic freedom, and free speech for university personnel. The litigation has legal and practical ramifications in the State of Arizona and nationally. Because of the influence that Dr. Peacock's termination and its aftermath have had upon the university system in Arizona and upon the law affecting academic dismissals generally, as well as the unique longevity of the litigation, a chronicle of his complicated tale of legal and administrative conflict has merit. The history illustrates an avoidable personnel dispute, badly handled by a university; dogged persistence by a proud, somewhat exasperating faculty member resisting a reputation-damaging termination; a legal battle unusual in its duration and intensity; and incalculable damage to faculty morale and to the prestige of a fine educational institution. Perhaps other institutions can learn a valuable lesson in what not to do in comparable situations. In addition, the controversy raises important questions with respect to the required "public concern"' element of speech by academic personnel at public universities, and under what circumstances constitutional protection accompanies their remarks.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 52

Keywords: Academic dismissal, teaching, free speech

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Date posted: July 31, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Matheson, Alan A., A Peacock's Tale: Due Process and Free Speech in Academe (1986). Arizona State Law Journal, p. 401, 1986. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1441499

Contact Information

Alan A. Matheson (Contact Author)
Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law ( email )
Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States
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