The dismissal of South Dakota State University insect expert who a colleague says refused to change his recommendations on pesticide spraying has prompted a protest from a national group of scholars.
The American Association of University Professors, which once imposed a 29-year censure on the South Dakota Board of Regents for a faculty firing, said Mike Catangui, a tenured professor and Extension Service entomologist, had been dismissed without a hearing.
Whether he was fired or suspended pending a hearing wasn't clear Tuesday. The university administration, Catangui and the faculty union wouldn't go into details.
"I have no comment other than I've been serving the people of South Dakota for almost 20 years to the best of my ability," Catangui said.
The entomologist for the Cooperative Extension Service is the contact for the public's questions about insects that affect crops, livestock, gardens, buildings and human health.
Catangui's predecessor, Ben Kantack, said Catangui was let go because he refused to follow regional recommendations on when spraying should be done to kill aphids, pests that suck the nutrients from soybean plants and emit a sticky residue that can produce leaf mold.
"He was told he would accept the recommendations from these other states, which do not fit South Dakota weather conditions or growing conditions and so forth, which his own research showed do not fit," said Kantack, a professor emeritus and retired Extension entomologist at SDSU. "He was told if he didn't accept them he would not keep his job.
"He has defended the ag interests of South Dakota and saved them a lot of money over the years. He's being discharged, in my opinion, unjustly."
SDSU President David Chicoine wouldn't comment.
"We just don't talk publicly about personnel matters, either hiring or promoting or in this case other action," Chicoine said.
The AAUP, founded in 1915 to preserve faculty academic freedom and due process, said in a July 8 letter to Chicoine that it understood Catangui was dismissed for "performance deficiencies" and insubordination but didn't receive a faculty review hearing that is standard for tenured faculty.
"We recognize that faculty members can be dismissed for cause, but we believe when they are dismissed that they're afforded appropriate procedural protections, and this ain't it," Gregory Scholtz said from AAUP's national headquarters in Washington, D.C.
AAUP members voted in 1962 to censure the South Dakota Board of Regents for the 1958 dismissal of an agronomy professor who had served 15 years at SDSU. Censure was lifted in 1991 when the regents adopted policies on tenure and dismissal in agreement with the Council of Higher Education (COHE), the union representing university faculty.
"This is a personnel matter, and while it's still a personnel matter we really can't say much about what's going on," said Bill Adamson, president of the SDSU chapter of COHE.