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Appellate court upholds university's suspension of professor

The state's Sixth District Court of Appeal has upheld Stanford's suspension of Professor Adolf Pfefferbaum for neglect of academic duties.

In a ruling issued Monday, Dec. 18, a three-judge panel of the Sixth District agreed with an earlier decision by a Santa Clara County judge upholding Pfefferbaum's three-year suspension. Pfefferbaum had sued the university in an effort to reverse the suspension.

"In sum, we conclude that the record amply supports the trial court's finding that Pfefferbaum neglected his academic duties," Justice Patricia Bamattre-Manoukian wrote in the decision, with which the two other justices concurred. The opinion also stated the appellate court's conclusion that the university's Faculty Advisory Board that heard the case and the independent hearing officer selected by the parties "were meticulous in their observance of fair process."

Pfefferbaum, a tenured professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, refused to continue in his university-assigned post as an employee at the Stanford-affiliated Palo Alto Veterans Administration Medical Center in 1996. A court later granted him the right to a hearing before the university's Advisory Board of the Academic Council. That faculty body found that Pfefferbaum's action constituted neglect of his academic duties under the university's Statement on Faculty Discipline. The Advisory Board recommended a three-year suspension and a $20,000 fine. Then-President Gerhard Casper accepted the Advisory Board's recommendation.

Although upholding the suspension, the appellate court -- like the lower court -- did not uphold the university's imposition of the $20,000 fine. The court held that because such a sanction was not then explicitly listed in the university's official written disciplinary policy, the accused did not receive adequate notice of the possibility of such a sanction.


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