Pro-Trump professor sues New Mexico State University for wrongful termination

DCNFRob Shimshock, DCNF

A pro-Trump professor sued New Mexico State University Friday after the school fired him when he refused to return to work after the school rescinded his leave of absence.

(Image: Screenshot)

Former NMSU business law professor Gavin Clarkson sued the school for wrongful termination, defamation, denial of due process, breach of contract, production of a hostile work environment and discrimination because of his conservative politics, according to a press release obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“Without the basic due process rights that are the cornerstone of western civilization, it’s really just a kangaroo court,” Clarkson said. “While litigation should never be the first option, it’s the only way forward at this point to make sure justice is done in this situation, which is a transparent political hit job.”

NMSU granted the former professor a leave of absence in June 2017 when Clarkson told NMSU he had accepted an appointment as deputy assistant secretary for policy and economic affairs at the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. In its letter granting the leave, NMSU does not explicitly state that the leave hinged upon the professor’s employment at the Department of the Interior.

Clarkson stepped down from his deputy assistant secretary post in December 2017 to pursue a seat in New Mexico’s Congressional District No. 2. The former professor announced his candidacy on Jan. 8, 2018. On Jan. 12, the school ordered him to return to teaching Jan. 16.

“The original approval for leave was specific to supporting your appointment,” NMSU Executive Vice President and Provost Daniel J. Howard said in a letter TheDCNF obtained, “with no agreement for leave for any other purpose.”

(Image: New Mexico State University)

Clarkson refused to return, citing Section G of NMSU’s policy pertaining to leave without pay, which states “all conditions of professional leave without pay, including the status of the individual upon return to the university and (if appropriate) the effect of this period on tenure and promotion eligibility, must be in writing prior to the leave period.”

But Section A of the same policy specifies that the leave must be taken “for the purpose of undertaking some project that will directly benefit the university and the person’s professional development,” and the university demands that Clarkson return.

When the former professor refused to return, NMSU terminated him in April, offering a condition of reinstatement that hinged on the professor remaining in his campus office during working hours even though Clarkson has no classes or students.

“This ‘office arrest’ offer was clearly meant to stop me from continuing my congressional campaign,” the professor said. “No other faculty member at NMSU has ever been ‘confined to the reservation’ in this manner.”

NMSU spokeswoman Minerva Baumann told TheDCNF that the school “does not comment on pending litigation.”

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