Saturday, July 13, 2024

UNCW reaches $500,000 settlement with Mike Adams to avoid costly litigation the school “might not win”

UNCW Professor Mike Adams
UNCW Professor Mike Adams. (Photo courtesy Facebook)

WILMINGTON — The University of North Carolina Wilmington has reached a $504,702 settlement with embattled professor Mike Adams.

In a letter sent to the Seahawk community on Thursday, UNCW Chancellor Jose Sartarelli announced the agreement with the professor following news earlier this week that he will retire effective August 1.

Adams has gained national attention for a long history of controversial social media posts, many of which were viewed as racist, sexist, or homophobic in nature. Tens of thousands of students, alumni, faculty, criminologists, and celebrities have signed petitions in support of his removal.

RELATED: Controversial UCNW professor Mike Adams will retire August 1

“You are no doubt familiar with the controversies surrounding Dr. Adams going back over a decade, so I will not review them again here,” Sartarelli wrote. “Today, I want to provide you with the details of that agreement.”

Sartarelli outlined three “realistic choices” facing the university: to continue employing Adams and “accept the ongoing disruption to our educational mission, the hurt and anger in the UNCW community, and the damage to the institution;” to terminate his employment and face drawn out, costly litigation that the school “might not win;” or to negotiate a settlement.

The second option of terminating Adams, he noted, would have likely faced an uphill and costly battle. He cited a case in 2014 when Adams sued the university and won a first amendment retaliation lawsuit that cost UNCW seven years and roughly $700,000 — $615,000 of which was spent on Adams’ attorneys’ fees.

“Losing a similar lawsuit today could cost even more,” he said.

The settlement came after an extensive negotiation between the two parties, after which it was agreed that the amount of $504,702.76 would be paid to Adams for “lost salary and lost retired benefits, which was approved by the North Carolina Attorney General and the UNC Board of Governors,” according to Sartarelli.

“UNCW agreed to pay the amount to Dr. Adams over a five-year period with all payments coming from discretionary trust dollars, i.e., savings from previous years, and not state-budgeted funds,” the letter stated.

Sartarelli called the resolution “less damaging to UNCW than leaving the situation unresolved,” also allowing the university to avoid further harm to the institution, reduce campus safety concerns, and prevent any continued disruption to its educational mission.

He concluded the letter by saying the unversity would share an action plan outlining the specific steps it will take “to honor and demonstrate the values of inclusivity, cultural awareness, equality, and transparency.”

The letter can be read in full below:

Dear Seahawk Community:

Recently, my office announced that UNCW reached an agreement with Dr. Mike Adams regarding his early retirement. You are no doubt familiar with the controversies surrounding Dr. Adams going back over a decade, so I will not review them again here. Today, I want to provide you with the details of that agreement.

I will be open and transparent with you about our thinking and how this played out. We could not will or wish away the situation. There was no easy solution. We had to make the difficult, but correct, decisions to resolve the matter and move the university forward.

In the case of Dr. Adams, as a senior tenured faculty member, we faced three realistic choices:

1) Have him continue as a faculty member and accept the ongoing disruption to our educational mission, the hurt and anger in the UNCW community, and the damage to the institution.

2) Attempt to terminate him, and face drawn out, very costly litigation, that we might not win, which was the case when Dr. Adams sued UNCW and won a First Amendment retaliation lawsuit in 2014. That legal process lasted 7 years and cost the university roughly $700,000, $615,000 of which was for Dr. Adams’ attorneys’ fees. Losing a similar lawsuit today could cost even more.

3) Negotiate a settlement when, as part of a conversation with me about his conduct and future at UNCW, I learned Dr. Adams was interested in retiring. This approach allows us to resolve the situation quickly, with certainty, and in the most fiscally responsible way. This is the best option for our university and our community.

Ultimately, after extensive negotiation, the parties reached a total settlement amount of $504,702.76, for lost salary and lost retirement benefits, which was approved by the North Carolina Attorney General and the UNC Board of Governors. UNCW agreed to pay the amount to Dr. Adams over a five-year period with all payments coming from discretionary trust dollars, i.e., savings from previous years, and not state-budgeted funds.

This resolution is less damaging to UNCW than leaving the situation unresolved. In addition to saving money, the settlement will prevent the continued disruption to our educational mission, reduce concerns around campus safety, and lessen the harm to the institution. Dollars are precious, but our institutional integrity is priceless.

As July progresses, we will share an action plan that outlines specific steps we will take to honor and demonstrate the values of inclusivity, cultural awareness, equality, and transparency.  This planning takes time, deliberation, and most importantly, the input, feedback, and support of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni, especially our Black communities.  It’s critical for UNCW’s future that we get it right. I hope you will join us in making it happen.

Sincerely,

Jose V. Sartarelli

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