OSU faculty seeks removal of regent

Wednesday, January 14th 2004, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ Oklahoma State University faculty members want one of the school's regents removed because of his opposition to a lawsuit over retirement benefits.

The OSU Faculty Council voted unanimously Tuesday to call for the ouster of regent Douglas Burns, a Norman attorney who has said publicly that the lawsuit lacks merit.

The council requested Gov. Henry remove Burns as a member of the OSU Board of Regents.

``We believe regent Burns has crossed the line and is acting and advising the OSU board as an attorney on the issue of the faculty lawsuit,'' said Carol Moder, chairwoman of the Faculty Council. ``We believe such behavior is inconsistent with the duties of a regent, who is appointed to represent faculty as well as administration and students.''

Burns said the council's action was personal and disappointing.

``I am not going to personalize this issue, and I am very disappointed that anyone would personalize it simply because we disagree concerning the facts of the law,'' he said. ``If any of those filing this lawsuit believe that it has legal or factual merit, then they should have no hesitation in allowing the issues to be determined by a court of law.''

Henry's office received the group's request Tuesday, said Paul Sund, a spokesman for the governor. Sund said that ``until we have had time to review it in detail, it would be inappropriate to comment.''

The retirement dispute involves a class-action lawsuit filed in Oklahoma County District Court that stems from changes made in the OSU retirement plan in 1993 and which have resulted in decreased retirement benefits for faculty and staff members, said Lionel Raff, a faculty member and plaintiff.

Defendants in the lawsuit are the OSU regents and the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System. OSU is being assisted in the lawsuit by the state Attorney General's Office. OSU regents in December rejected a $19 million settlement offer from faculty members.

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