A popular chemistry professor at Mid-Plains Community College resigned Tuesday after reaching a settlement with the college.
Dr. Deming Pan, a tenured chemistry professor at the North Platte campus, accepted the offer of the settlement Tuesday morning. A public hearing of her and the administration’s grievances before the college’s Board of Governors was called off.
Pan was removed from her classroom Feb. 20 and placed on administrative leave by Dr. Michael Chipps for insubordination.
The college accused Pan of violating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act for sending three student’s records to an accreditation agency as a protest for what she believed was a “lowering of standards” for students. The college also accused Pan of denigrating her colleagues with her e-mail complaints.
Pan had requested a public hearing on the termination of her teaching contract and about 45 people were on hand for the hearing at the North Platte campus theatre Tuesday morning.
But North Platte attorney Dave Pederson, the board’s attorney, said that a tentative agreement had been negotiated the night before. He said that Pan agreed to withdraw her request for the hearing and resign. Pederson also said the board agreed to pay Pan’s salary and benefits through July 31 and pay Pan a settlement buyout of $10,000.
The settlement cost the college $43,682.34. That includes paying Pan the six months remaining on her existing contract or $33,682. It also includes a settlement buyout of her contract of $10,000. The college will also provide Pan all the benefits of her contract but did not provide a dollar amount for those.
In the settlement the board also agreed not to pursue Pan’s student record breach with the U.S. Attorney and provided Pan with a letter of recommendation from Chipps.
The letter said Pan received “consistently superior teaching evaluations and that she was “passionate about her discipline and a tireless advocate for high academic standards in chemistry.”
“Please consider her for any position which you have open,” Chipps said in the letter.
Both sides agreed not to communicate in any way in a “disparaging manner” regarding the college, its board, administrators, faculty or academic programs.
The board then went into executive session and discussed the matter.
Pan got the opportunity to air her grievances to the board during the closed executive meeting session.
After the board returned to an open meeting, they held a brief discussion over the controversy.
Board member Glenn Colson the board felt the $10,000 above and beyond Pan’s contract was the way to go.
Board member Ted Klug said there “were no winners” in the situation.
“We all lose something here today,” Klug said. He said he felt it was necessary to avoid legal battles but that he didn’t like the process.
Board member Roger Wilson said it was obvious Pan “had a passion for her students.” He wished her good luck in her future.
The board voted 9-1 to approve the agreement.
Elizabeth Benjamin, board chairperson, voted against the agreement. She said the board had not had a full hearing and that hers was an economic decision.
“The college should be all about the students,” Benjamin said. “All decisions should reflect dignity, respect and concern for the students.”
Pederson said the board felt the administration handled the Pan situation well.
Lincoln attorney Rick Wade, who represented Pan, said the settlement was in the best interest of Dr. Pan and the school.
Wade said Pan was able to address the board in executive session and advised the board keep the academic standards of MPCC at levels appropriate for college students.
Pederson also acknowledged that MPCC had been contacted by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, the commission Pan reported the college to for allegedly lowering academic standards for the Nursing program and the Medical Laboratory Technology program.
Pederson said the administration has addressed that issue.