It took seven years of court battles, but conservative academic Mike Adams is now a full professor at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.
Under a settlement reached Tuesday, the university agreed to promote Mr. Adams from associate professor to full professor of criminology at a salary of $75,000 per year, along with $50,000 in court-ordered back pay and $615,000 in attorneys’ fees.
“The university has chosen the right course in opting to stop defending its unconstitutional actions, to right the wrong done to Dr. Adams by granting him the promotion he has long deserved, and to protect him against future retaliation,” said Travis Barham, attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the professor.
“Other universities watching this should understand that disagreeing with an accomplished professor’s political and religious views is not an acceptable reason to deny him a promotion,” said Mr. Barham.
A popular professor who won awards for teaching, research and service, Mr. Adams found himself on the wrong side of the faculty lounge after converting to Christianity in 2000 and launching a conservative column on TownHall.com.
The university “subjected Adams to a campaign of academic harassment that culminated in the denial of his promotion to full professor” in 2006, according to an ADF statement.
As part of the settlement, the university also agreed to drop its appeal of a March ruling in which jurors decided the university had retaliated against Mr. Adams in violation of his First Amendment rights.
The university will also implement procedures protecting Mr. Adams from further retaliation by ensuring that his annual evaluations include reviewers from outside his department.
Mr. Adams described the jury’s ruling as groundbreaking in an interview last month with World Magazine radio.
“To the best of my knowledge, that’s the only time a conservative has ever actually gone and taken on a secular university and actually won in a jury trial,” said Mr. Adams. “It was a jury of my peers that spoke, and we won.”
University officials initially decided in May to appeal the verdict, citing the “potentially excessive” cost of reimbursing Mr. Adams for attorneys’ fees, which drew a sharp response from critics who blamed the university for refusing to settle the case early on.
“This victory is not only good for Dr. Adams but for all who value academic freedom,” said ADF senior counsel Kevin Theriot. “It sends a strong message to all public universities not to engage in this type of injustice and think there will be no consequences.”