University of Arizona Settles with Family of Murdered Professor

Dr. Thomas Meixner’s family has agreed not to file a lawsuit against the school for its failure to protect him.

University of Arizona Settles with Family of Murdered Professor

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TUCSON, Ariz. — The family of a University of Arizona professor who was killed on campus in 2022 has settled with the school.

On Oct. 5, 2022, Dr. Thomas Meixner, professor and department head of the school’s Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences, was fatally shot by 46-year-old former student Murad Dervish. Dervish immediately fled the scene and was apprehended by the Arizona Department of Public Safety about 120 miles from campus.

Dervish, who campus officials knew had a violent criminal record and was barred from the campus beginning in early 2022, had been sending Meixner and others distressing messages for months. The victims made several attempts to report his behavior to numerous university departments, including the Office of General Counsel, the UA Police Department (UAPD) the Office of Institutional Equity, and the Dean of Students.

As part of a multi-million-dollar settlement, Meixner’s family has agreed not to file a lawsuit against the school for its failure to protect him, according to a press release from law firm Zwillinger Wulkan. Attorney Greg Kuykendall praised the school for taking accountability “in a world where our legal system often protects institutions at the expense of providing appropriate recompense to victims.”

“So often in the aftermath of school shootings, we learn all the ways that they could and should have been prevented. That is exactly what happened here,” said Meixner’s wife, Kathleen. “Tom’s murder revealed missed opportunities, even though efforts by the Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences department were exemplary in communicating a credible threat and seeking help to protect the U of A community. But we must look to the future, and with urgency, ensuring that tragedies like ours do not happen to others.”

Kathleen praised the school for its efforts in implementing 33 security improvements recommended by consulting firm PAX Group, which was hired to conduct an independent review of the shooting and the university’s response. Among the recommendations are:

  • Hiring a dedicated president for the school’s Threat Assessment Management Team (TATM)
  • Expanding safety training to individuals and units
  • Automatically registering all students and staff to receive campus alerts
  • Improved interagency cooperation
  • A centralized security camera policy
  • Installing fire and safety-compliant locks on classroom doors
  • Expanding keyless access to buildings
  • Running criminal background checks on graduate students

“The security measures adopted should make the U of A community safer and provide a model to other campuses,” Kathleen continued. “My family and I will continue meeting with the University of Arizona President, its Police Chief, and multiple other members of the University administration to make certain it upholds its commitment to make our community safer. Together, we will Bear Down, and find our way forward with courage and love for the Wildcat community which Tom cherished.”

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Executive Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

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One response to “University of Arizona Settles with Family of Murdered Professor”

  1. Sgt. Jeff Weiss, Ret. says:

    I do not understand why people who feel threatened, especially if there is evidence that the threat has actually taken place, report said threat to school officials, school police authorities (if any), Dept. chairs, colleagues, their mothers, sisters, etc. but not to municipal, state, or federal authorities. Why, if a student is sexually harassed or attacked their first response is to report the incident to school officials rather than police with appropriate local, state, or federal authority to take action regarding the incident. I understand that governmental laws may define how the school must treat such incidents, but I don’t believe that laws prevent victims from reporting such offenses to appropriate local, state, or federal authorities. If a victim has witness’ or evidence of a crime against them they will probably get a more relevant response from police than their colleagues or a school all of whose reputations will be damaged by such an incident.

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