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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Asian Indian University of Cincinnati Prof With 29 Patents Feuds With School: Says Reputation, Research Efforts 'Sabotaged'

Prof. Dharma Agrawal
CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Computer science professor Dharma Agrawal was recruited from North Carolina in the late 1990s and was given tenure and the title Ohio Board of Regents distinguished professor. He was considered a world class researcher. Agrawal -- a naturalized U.S. citizen who emigrated from India in 1976 -- now is claiming his research funds have been taken away because he's not American born.  His lawsuit claims violations of academic freedom, due processs and discrimination against him because of race and skin color. The lawsuit was originally filed in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court last month, but has been moved to U.S. District Court in Cincinnati. University of Cincinnati lawyers said the suit raises federal civil rights issues. The move to federal court suggest the school plans a vigorous defense.

Agrawal contends that Carlo Montemagno, dean of the college of engineering and applied science, and John g. Bryan, interim vice provost for academic personnel, have harassed him and disrupted his research efforts since 2006. He said the school has wrongly accused him of exploiting students and leveled unproven accusations that he forced foreign students with F-1 visas to work on proposals for his private company. For a time, he said he was suspended and banned from appearing at the college. Agrawal's lawsuit said he was the victim of a sham investigation:

"Dean Montemamgno claimed to have conducted an investigation that substantiated the allegations; but in fact no report of such investigation has been found and apparently none was actually conducted and the Dean had no legitimate reason to have brought such allegations and proposed discipline. Rather, Dean Montemagno had deliberately brought the charges to destroy the reputation of the plaintiff, and to induce him to leave the University." 

Agrawal is an expert in the field of wireless systems. He claims there is a campaign under way to disrupt his research. Agrawal originally was brought to Ohio -- along with several others recruited to the state's 13 campuses -- in a bid to stimulate the state's economy by boosting research efforts across the state university system. Regents professors were funded by the state because they had earned national recognition for their work and excelled as scholars. But Agrawal said it went off the tracks at the University of Cincinnati:

" . . . Plaintiff was intentionally discriminated against by defendants because of his non-white race and color and because of his Indian national origin and Indian ancestry. Had Professor Agrawal been treated equally with white professors or American-born professors at the University of Cincinnati, there would have been no attempt to discipline him as was attempted, nor would his graduate faculty rights have been suspended."

Agrawal wants $500,000 in punitive damages, attorney fees, an injunction and reinstatement of nearly $400,000 in Ohio Board of Regents research funds that were stripped from his control.

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