Riggin v. Board of Trustees of Ball State University, 1-1084A240

Docket NºNo. 1-1084A240
Citation489 N.E.2d 616
Case DateMarch 03, 1986
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana

M. Kent Newton, Beth H. Henkel, Bayh, Tabbert & Capehart, Indianapolis, for plaintiff-appellant.

Jon H. Moll, Thomas C. Pence, DeFur, Voran, Hanley, Radcliff & Reed, Muncie, for defendants-appellees.

NEAL, Judge.


Plaintiff-appellant, Richard E. Riggin (Riggin), appeals two adverse summary judgments granted in favor of the Board of Trustees of Ball State University (Board of Trustees), and certain members of its personnel. The first case was a suit for injunctive relief seeking enforcement of the Indiana Open Door Law, tried in the Blackford Circuit Court, which was filed against the Board of Trustees, Dr. R. Thomas Wright, Dr. Thomas Mertens, Dr. Paul W. Parkison, Dr. Marvin R. Gray and Dr. John P. Strouse, as members of the Hearing Committee of the University Senate Judicial Committee, and Robert P. Bell, as President of Ball State University. The second case, a suit tried in the Hancock Circuit Court, was in six counts. In this latter case, Riggin brought suit against only the Board of Trustees and Robert P. Bell as President of Ball State University. In his amended complaint Riggin sought: (1) judicial review and injunctive relief to prevent Ball State from terminating his employment as a tenured professor; (2) damages under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983; (3) damages for breach of contract; (4) damages for defamation; and (5) a declaration voiding the termination proceedings for violation of the Open Door Law. Both cases are consolidated here on appeal.


Riggin was a tenured professor at Ball State University (Ball State) with 22 years seniority. His performance came under scrutiny by the Dean of the Business School, wherein Riggin taught, which ultimately led to formal specifications for removal being filed against him. The specifications were as follows:

"The charges supporting the conclusion that Dr. Richard E. Riggin is unfit to continue in his position as a faculty member at Ball State University are as follows:

1. Dr. Riggin is an ineffective teacher, in that he:

(a) Spends an excessive amount of time on nonpertinent matters;

(b) Fails to cover the basic course materials which students are expected to learn from his classes, as described in the catalog or course syllabi; and

(c) Demonstrates lack of adequate preparation and lack of organization in lectures.

2. Dr. Riggin has frequently failed to meet classes as scheduled, at the prescribed hour or for the prescribed length of time.

3. Dr. Riggin does not observe regular office hours, in violation of the published College of Business policy that faculty members are to have a minimum of ten (10) hours per week of scheduled office hours.

4. Dr. Riggin fails to carry out his responsibilities with respect to:

(a) Cooperating with faculty colleagues on matters such as teaching assignments and class scheduling;

(b) Responding in an appropriate and timely fashion to communications from within his Department and College;

(c) Participating in departmental, collegiate and university affairs; [and]

(d) Engaging in research and scholarly activities.

5. Dr. Riggin has been informed repeatedly of these problems and has refused to take corrective steps, and, subsequently, has even refused to discuss them with the Department Head and/or Dean."

After exhausting all preliminary procedures, after a hearing before an ad hoc hearing committee which recommended his discharge, and after a review of that hearing by the Board of Trustees, Riggin's

employment was terminated. His suits challenge that decision. Further record and evidence will be recited at appropriate places in the opinion.


Riggin raises the following nine issues on appeal:

I. Whether the Indiana Open Door Law applied to the hearing committee's proceedings.

II. Whether the judgment is supported by substantial evidence.

III. Whether the determination to separate Riggin was based on lawful or acertainable standards.

IV. Whether the dismissal violates Riggin's equal protection rights.

V. Whether the dismissal violated Riggin's First Amendment Rights.

VI. Whether Riggin established all the requisites for and then was entitled to injunctive relief.

VII. Whether Riggin's notices of claim were legally sufficient under the Indiana Tort Claims Act.

VIII. Whether the Ball State officials involved are immune from liability under the Indiana Tort Claims Act.

IX. Whether the Board of Trustees and the President of Ball State are immune from liability under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983.


Both cases were decided by summary judgment. Summary judgment is the proper vehicle for dispute resolution where:

"The pleadings, depositions, answer to the interrogatories, and admission on file, together with affidavits and testimony, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law."

Ind.Rules of Procedure, Trial Rule 56(C).

This standard is applied whether the issue of summary judgment appropriateness is raised at trial or upon appeal. Richardson v. Citizens Gas & Coke Utility (1981), Ind.App., 422 N.E.2d 704. Since neither Riggin nor the Board of Trustees dispute the facts, summary judgment is an appropriate vehicle to resolve the dispute.

Issue I: Open Door Law.

Ball State concedes that it is a public agency as defined by IND.CODE 5-14-1.5-2(a); that its Board of Trustees is a governing body within the meaning of that term as used in IND.CODE 5-14-1.5-2(b), and that its Board of Trustees is subject to the Indiana Open Door Law. It denies, however, that the ad hoc hearing committee is subject to that Act.

The ad hoc hearing committee derives its authority in the following manner: Ball State is controlled by the Board of Trustees. IND.CODE 20-12-57.5-1; IND.CODE 20-12-57.5-2; IND.CODE 20-12-57.5-11. That body adopted a constitution which established the University Senate, which is empowered to advise the Board of Trustees on the appointment, promotion, tenure and dismissal of faculty members. An elaborate system of committees was created by the senate to aid in the governing of Ball State, which includes the disciplining faculty members. In matters of discipline and/or removal of faculty members, an informal preliminary proceeding is first held in an attempt to resolve the problem. If unsuccessful, the matter is referred by the dean of the affected college to the Professional Policies Council of the senate for further informal review. If the Professional Policies Council review does not resolve the matter, it is referred to the President of Ball State. Thereupon, the president presents the affected faculty member with written specifications and informs him of his right to a hearing before a five person ad hoc committee selected by the president of the senate from members of the Ball State Senate Judicial Committee, a standing committee elected by the senate. The ad hoc hearing committee determines its own procedure, consults previously collected information, and, in consultation with the president, determines whether the hearing shall be public or private. A hearing is held and a record of its proceedings is kept. After the committee arrives at its decision by explicit findings and a majority vote, it notifies the president and the affected faculty member. The Board of Trustees is then informed of the committee's recommendations. Article IV provides:

"Consideration by the Board of Trustees: The President should inform the Board of Trustees of the recommendation of the Hearing Committee and should make a copy of the record available to it. The Board has the prerogative of reviewing the case, if it so desires. If a review is held, it is recommended that the Board's action be based on the record of the previous hearing and that opportunity be extended to both principals to present arguments and evidence in their behalf. Either the decision of the Hearing Committee should be sustained or the proceedings should be returned to the Hearing Committee with objections specified. In the latter case, the Committee should be accorded the privilege of reconsidering its actions; in doing so, the Hearing Committee should take account of the stated objections of the Board and should receive new evidence and hear new argument, if necessary. If, as a result of the second hearing, the Hearing Committee returns the same recommendation to the Board and if the Board still cannot sustain the recommendation of the Hearing Committee, the Board should then overrule the Hearing Committee and render its decision." (Our emphasis.)

The committee in Riggin's case opted to have a closed hearing even though Riggin demanded an open one. Riggin thereupon filed his suit to force an open hearing under IND.CODE 5-14-1.5-1 et seq., the Open Door Law.

In its conclusions of law relative to the Open Door Law, the trial court held:

"That the plaintiff does meet the requirements of the Indiana Open Door Law with the exception of the fact that the governing body, the Ball State University Board of Trustees, did not appoint the Hearing Committee nor delegate authority to said Committee.

That the recommendations of the Hearing Committee are not binding upon the governing body, the Ball State University Board of Trustees.

* * *


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