Fired tenured professor loses suit against GW

An engineering professor who sued the University after being forcefully removed from his classroom lost a civil suit in federal court last month.

Debabrata Saha, who had taught at GW since 1986, is the first professor in University history to have his tenure revoked. When administrators suspended him pending a review of his tenure in 2006, UPD officers had to escort him out of his classroom.

He sued the University for $1 million for violating his civil rights. Saha claimed that the University’s actions deprived him of his right to teach class and publicly misrepresented his character. The removal from the classroom followed his fourth suspension in eight years, and was the second time the University forcibly stopped him from teaching.

A federal judge ruled in an opinion March 12 that his claim was “wholly without merit.” Saha had already filed a separate suit in January for $25 million against an array of defendants including former University president Stephen Joel Trachtenberg.

“Saha could not prove his claims,” University Spokeswoman Tracy Schario said. “We do not know why Saha filed a separate lawsuit instead of amending the first lawsuit.”

Saha, who is now representing himself in court, did not comment.

Experts previously told The Hatchet that tenure revocation cases rarely reach this point because the professors resign.

Donald Lehman, executive vice president of academic affairs, initiated the proceedings to revoke Saha’s tenure in September 2005. Lehman said that for nearly a decade, Saha had failed to attend faculty meetings, submit annual reports and student evaluations, serve on committees, conduct research or communicate with his colleagues.

Faculty hearing panels concluded that this constituted “egregious and persistent neglect of his professional duties,” and a disregard of the obligations of tenure. The University revoked his tenure on March 1, 2007, according to court documents.

Saha contends in court documents that revoking his tenure was one in a series of retaliatory acts by the University for a 1996 memorandum in which he accused the administration of unfairly offering passing grades to graduate students. He also alleged the University left a blood-stained copy of that memorandum on his doorstep and likened him to a mass murderer.

Tenured professors sign an agreement with the University allowing them to teach until they choose to retire. The Saha case is the first instance in GW’s 188-year history that tenure revocation has made it this far, according to the decision of the Saha hearing panel.

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