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Notre Dame says professor used federal grant money for porn

Former University of Notre Dame professor Oliver Collins allegedly spent more than $190,000 in federal grant money for photography equipment for personal use—including making and storing pornographic images.

Now, Collins, a formerly tenured professor of engineering, is suing Notre Dame for breach of contract.

The university’s formal response filed in South Bend’s U.S. District Court alleges that Collins purchased multiple cameras, lenses, a printer and computer equipment with a National Science Foundation grant and university funds.

“Collins took many of these cameras and accessories to his home and used them extensively in pursuit of his personal hobby of photography, including taking landscape and pornographic photographs,” the university’s response states.

According to the university, pornography was also found on university computers to which Collins and others had access. The university seeks payment from Collins for over $140,000 in damages, investigation costs, and attorney fees.

Collins, however, insists the images were stored without his knowledge. He also claims that the equipment he bought may be used for legitimate academic research.

Notre Dame’s dean of engineering, Peter Kilpatrick, reiterated the rationale found in the university’s filed documents.

“The primary reason the university moved to dismiss Professor Collins was that, in our careful and considered opinion, he used federal grant monies to purchase equipment for personal use,” Kilpatrick said in an email response. “He then misrepresented the expenditure of these funds to the National Science Foundation. Both of these actions constitute serious wrongdoing and justified dismissal with cause.”

Collins was suspended with pay, but without access to his lab or office, as of Aug. 24, 2009. The university formally dismissed him on June 2, 2010. Collins filed his suit in July.

The former electrical engineering professor maintains that he was wrongfully terminated, citing the policies outlined in the university’s academic articles. Included in the $75,000 figure for the lawsuit are damages for what Collins says is serious damage to his personal and professional relationship.

The university believes the process behind their dismissal of Collins was just.

“We’ve made our position on this matter clear through our response to his lawsuit. We’re confident in that position and equally confident that our process in this matter was thorough and fair,” said university spokesman Dennis Brown.

Collins had taught at Notre Dame since 1996. In 1998, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) awarded Collins the Judith A. Resnik Award, “for the development of coding for space communications which contributed the success of the Galileo mission.”

Collins now lives in Key West, Florida. His telephone number is unlisted.

A pre-trial conference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher Nuechterlein will be held on September 21.

Claire Gillen is the executive editor of the Irish Rover and a junior at the University of Notre Dame. In the summer of 2010, she was the SFPA fellow at the Washington Times.

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