Dickinson State University's presidential cabinet met Tuesday to begin the process of stripping Lynn Burgess, Ph.D., of his title of Professor Emeritus after he was sentenced last Thursday to 10 years in prison for continuous sexual abuse of a minor.
Burgess worked at the university as a biology professor from 1999 until his retirement in 2017.
To be eligible for emeritus status, a professor must serve a minimum of 10 years full-time at the university. Other factors considered include "significant service to the institution, state or community and distinguished contributions to the faculty member's academic discipline as a scholar and a teacher," according to the faculty handbook.
Neither the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education nor the North Dakota University System is responsible for assigning or removing the status. That process rests solely with the professor's institution.
"Essentially, the (state) board can award emeritus status to a campus president or the chancellor upon their retirement but actually does not go as far as to award emeritus status to faculty or administrators or anyone at an institutional level," said Lisa Johnson, vice chancellor for academic and student affairs for NDUS.
Marilyn Lee, interim provost and vice president of academic affairs for the university, made the following motion, which was seconded by Eric Brevik, Ph.D. and approved unanimously:
"Cabinet agrees that the proper procedure to follow, based upon a review of DSU Faculty Handbook, Section II.F.8 procedure 3, is for the president to ask the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences to vote on potential removal of faculty emeritus status for Lynn Burgess in the fall with a deadline to be set and a decision to be made as in the aforementioned policy by the simple majority of votes cast."
The handbook does not explicitly state the process for stripping a professor of the title once it has been conferred, so the university faculty will follow the process of giving the title, in reverse.
Since the College of Arts and Sciences, which Burgess belonged to while at DSU, conferred the title upon him, it is ultimately their decision to strip him of it.
"I spoke with President Easton today and because it's summer and a majority of our faculty are not on contract during the summer, therefore they're not expected or required to check their email, this vote will take place in the fall when everyone is back on contract," said Michelle Wilson, director of university relations. "They want to give all of the faculty within the College of Arts and Sciences an opportunity to vote on this."