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Chicago State agrees to pay $650K to settle blog lawsuit

January 8, 2019

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago State University has agreed to pay two professors $650,000 to settle a lawsuit over their blog that criticized school leadership, the latest in a series of settlements the financially struggling institution has faced.

The agreement with Robert Bionaz and Phillip Beverly also gives the university 60 days to revamp school policies on cyberbullying and computer usage and train employees to enforce those policies, The Chicago Tribune reported . The policy bans communication that “tends to embarrass or humiliate.”

Bionaz and Beverly launched the CSU Faculty Voice in 2009 to serve as an uncensored place for faculty to express their opinions. The blog was used to criticize university administrators by highlighting a culture of promoting friends to positions of power, rising administrative salaries despite shrinking student enrollment and the university’s constantly changing leadership.

University officials sent the professors a letter in 2013 demanding the blog be shut down, alleging that it improperly used “trade names and marks” and violated school policy that requires faculty members to exhibit civility and professionalism. In 2014, the university demanded the professors change the website’s primary photograph and domain name.

Bionaz and Beverly filed suit that year alleging the university’s tactics were unconstitutional.

“I’m glad it’s come to a conclusion,” said Beverly, who teaches political science. Bionaz taught history and retired from the university last year.

University spokeswoman Sabrina Land said the university “is moving forward.”

Beverly noted that the settlement was reached after the university hired Zaldwaynaka Scott as its president .

“I’m hopeful that the current administration that had to clean this mess up learns not to create messes like this in the future,” Beverly said.

The university faced many financial problems in recent years, with officials declaring a financial emergency in 2016. The university has paid multiple settlements to employees who filed whistleblower lawsuits, including $4.3 million to a school official who was fired after accusing the school’s former president of misconduct.

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