SALT LAKE CITY — A blind professor has sued Utah Valley University, claiming wrongful termination after he says students complained he was too tough on them and couldn't teach because of his disability.
Steven Maranville said he left his tenured job at the University of Houston in 2009 to teach at the Orem school after officials assured him he would be granted tenure there after a one-year probationary period. But he said the school later denied him tenure after receiving complaints from students "that he did not know how to teach because he was blind," according to the federal lawsuit.
Students also complained that he was disrespectful and his courses on strategic management were too rigorous.
Maranville called his teaching style "engaged learning," and said it was aimed at involving students in the process, rather than just lecturing. He claimed several university officials sat in periodically on his classes, and that a department head assured him that "he was teaching the course the way he should teach it," according to the lawsuit.
Maranville said at one point the university official called him a "master teacher."
He said he was denied tenure later in 2009 and left for a new job at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, but noted that his salary is now considerably less. He is seeking at least $250,000, loss of income and punitive damages in his claim of breach of contract and violation of due process, among other constitutional abuses.
The Utah Attorney General's Office, which is representing the school because it is a state institution, said the university did nothing wrong.
"The professor was given a year to teach before a decision was made whether or not to grant tenure, and the university declined to offer the tenure," Attorney General's Office spokesman Scott Troxel said Tuesday. "We believe they have the right to make that decision."
The lawsuit was initially filed in September in state court against the university and two school officials. It was moved to U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City in October. Defendants now have until Nov. 4 to officially respond.