Chicago State University will pay $650,000 to professors Robert Bionaz and Phillip Beverly, who claimed university officials violated their free speech rights in attempting to shut down their blog.
The blog was launched in 2009 and has criticized university administrators, including former President Wayne Watson. Faculty members who contributed to the blog questioned the administrative growing salaries and perks even as enrollment and graduation rates went down. They also found fault with the university’s revolving door of leadership in the last few years.
The disagreement that resulted in the lawsuit began at the end of 2013 when university officials sent Bionaz and Beverly a cease and desist notice to shut down their blog. The university’s attorneys at the time claimed the the blog improperly used university trade names and marks, and violated the school policy “requiring civility and professionalism of all University faculty members.”
In 2014, Bionaz and Beverly filed a lawsuit against the university to stop them from interfering with the blog. They alleged the university’s attempts to put a stop to their blog were unconstitutional.
“I’m glad it’s come to a conclusion,” Beverly said. “If there were to be a postmortem about this, there’s enough responsibility in a number of places to be laid as to why state resources were wasted in this way.”
Bionaz referred to the settlement as “a repudiation of the Watson administration’s egregious efforts to stifle speech on the Chicago State campus,” and condemned how long it dragged on after Watson left his post.
As part of the settlement agreement, the university said the would revamp school policies governing cyber bullying and computer usage. They must implement these changes within 60 days and provide training to employees enforcing these policies within three months.