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Former associate provost files lawsuit after firing

A former Belmont University associate provost is suing the school for allegedly breaching her employment contract.  Dr. Mimi Barnard had signed her new contract to work at Belmont full time for the ‘22 -’23 school year as the associate provost for interdisciplinary studies and global education. On Sept. 1, she was informed that she was fired based on “gross professional negligence or dereliction of duty,” according to her lawsuit. The Vision reached out to Barnard’s attorney for comment but did not receive a response in time for press. The university issued the following statement in regards to the suit: “While we are disappointed this has turned litigious, we are confident in Belmont’s process in this matter and look forward to a successful outcome. As policy, Belmont does not comment publicly on any specific personnel matters.” Barnard alleges her termination was to be effective on Nov. 25, but a month before, she received a letter from President L. Gregory Jones, informing her that she was relieved. According to her suit, she was told, “In light of your September 8, 2022, statement that you are unable to work due to health reasons, you are relieved of all duties on behalf of the university effective immediately.” The letter referenced Section 2.5.6 of the Faculty Handbook as grounds for Barnard’s termination. That section of the handbook states that any faculty member can be terminated by the president of the university upon conclusion that any of the following exists:

a. Immoral conduct. b. Professional incompetence as demonstrated over a period of time by the performance evaluation process. c. Gross insubordination. d. Sexual or discriminatory harassment. e. Physical or other incapacity which, even with reasonable accommodation, renders the faculty member unqualified to perform his/her duties. f. Gross professional negligence or dereliction of duty on the part of a faculty member. g. Misrepresenting scholarly expertise or credentials. h. Financial exigency of the institution. i. Program retrenchment or elimination The letter also references an investigation which was conducted by the university into Barnard due to complaints from “several employees” under her leadership. The investigation results demonstrated “gross professional negligence or dereliction of duty” on Barnard's part, according to the letter.  Barnard was informed of the investigation on July 6 by then-interim provost David Gregory, before being told by Gregory on Aug. 26 over Zoom that she had been “cleared” of any wrongdoing, according to the court documents.  But on Aug. 26, Barnard was placed on administrative leave following “allegations of misfeasance from another former employee, Thandi Dinani.”  Dinani is the former director of Belmont’s Study Abroad program. Barnard alleges in the suit that Belmont breached her employment contract which entitles her to damages, including interest and costs. The suit also claims Barnard received excellent evaluations during her time of employment, and that Belmont was not justified to terminate her. This article was written by Connor Daryani

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