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University officials unsure of next move in Kay case

By Erin Mahoney
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
November 23, 1999
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UA officials say the fate of fired researcher Marguerite Kay remains unclear one week after a judge's ruling in her favor.

"There hasn't been an administrative decision," said Sharon Kha, University of Arizona spokeswoman. "The attorneys are still analyzing the case ... we're still in a process that has a few more steps."

Last week, Pima County Superior Court Judge Stephen Villarreal's minute entry - a preliminary ruling before the final judgment - declared that the UA took illegal action in firing Kay and called for a new administrative hearing.

But Jane Eikleberry, the attorney representing the university, said the UA's hands are tied until Villarreal issues a final ruling in the next two months.

"He (Villarreal) is sending the case back to the university," Eikleberry said. "The judge has refused to order Dr. Kay to be reinstated."

After Eikleberry approves the language for the ruling next week, Villarreal has 60 days to make the decision official, she said.

"I don't expect the judge to take that long," she added.

Eikleberry said that Kay's case would be returned to a conciliation committee, but it is unclear whether Kay needs to be reinstated at the time of the committee hearing.

"Once we have a final judgment, we'll go from there," she said. "We're taking it one step at a time."

Kay, a former microbiology and immunology professor, was fired in July 1998, after a Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure found that she had falsified Alzheimer's research.

Faculty Chairman Jerrold Hogle said that although he hasn't made a personal decision about Kay's case, he thinks she should be reinstated during the hearing.

"She should have some form of reinstatement while the procedure goes on - that's my view," he said.

Hogle said that although several faculty members have spoken out in support of Kay, most are unsure of their opinions on the case.

"I don't think there's one unified position on this," he said. "I would bet the majority opinion is confusion."

Kay said she has received a great deal of support from present and former faculty members, although she declined to disclose their names.

"The faculty definitely feels a horrible injustice has been done," she said. "It's beginning to dawn on people that 'this could happen to you.'"

She conceded that although she may not have a majority of support in the faculty yet, more may come forward.

"I believe momentum is gaining in the faculty, and I'm getting more and more support," she said.

But Kay said despite the judge's ruling and faculty support, she has no idea whether the university will reinstate her.

"Quite honestly, I have no idea what they're going to do," she said. "I can't predict these people."

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