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A Kennesaw State University professor has sued the Georgia Board of Regents, claiming that KSU adminstrators have discriminated and retaliated against him because he is Jewish. The allegations are contained in a suit filed in U.S. District Court last week. Lapides v. Board of Regents, No. 1:01-cv-2554 (N.D. Ga. Sept. 24, 2001). Paul D. Lapides, a tenured KSU professor, claims that the discriminatory actions against him were set in motion in 1997 by a false complaint made by a former student. That student complained to KSU administrators that Lapides had created a sexually hostile learning environment by telling off-color sexual jokes before and after classes, according to the complaint. The suit also alleges that, on the basis of that complaint, KSU conducted a flawed internal investigation that initially assumed the allegations were true and violated Lapides’ confidentiality rights by disclosing the allegations to other KSU faculty and students. According to his complaint, another student subequently informed Lapides that the woman who had complained may have done so because the professor “reminded her of her ex-husband, that she hated all men, and all Jews.” The former student’s allegations were later determined to be unfounded, according to the suit. Lapides has taught in the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship at KSU’s Coles College of Business since 1993. He is a tenured professor and the co-founder of KSU’s Copororate Governance Center, which provides instruction to corporate directors, researchers, professors and corporate advisers. In his suit, Lapides claims that the student’s false allegations and the subsequent investigation were driven by anti-Semitism. Lapides claims that underlying bias led KSU administrators to deny him a promotion, reassign him to a nonteaching post, and ignore his complaints when a subsequent sexual harassment complaint was made against him. “KSU’s decision to discriminate and retaliate against Lapides, while at the same time refusing to investigate improper conduct by another professor who made false accusations against Lapides and coerced his student-lover to file a false police report against Lapides, further highlights KSU’s improper motives,” the complaint states. That report alleged that Lapides had a sexually inappropriate conversation with the “student-lover.” But that student has stated in a sworn affidavit that although admininstrators pressed her to accuse Lapides, she “is not sure who the person was … but she does not believe and does not have any proof it was Lapides.” This is not the first time a KSU professor has accused university officials of anti-Semitism. In his suit, Lapides claims that KSU’s allegedly retaliatory actions against him took place shortly after the university lost a suit brought by another KSU professor. That faculty member had alleged that she was removed as department chair after she complained that her staff discriminated against her because she was Jewish. After a jury decided in her favor, KSU settled the suit for $750,000. Before suing KSU, Lapides filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In June, the agency issued a right-to-sue notice to the professor. He is represented by Atlanta attorneys Craig M. Frankel of Frankel & Associates, former Georgia Attorney General Michael J. Bowers of Meadows, Ichter & Trigg, and Marietta sole practitioner Lawrence E. Burke. Flora Devine, KSU’s assistant to the president for legal affairs, says that KSU has not been served with a copy of the suit yet. She referred all questions to the state attorney general’s office, saying that state agencies are not, as a matter of policy, permitted to comment on matters involving state litigation. PANEL SAYS TECH PROFESSOR COMPLAINTS AREN’T PROTECTED A federal appellate panel in Atlanta has affirmed a lower court ruling by rejecting claims of a Georgia professor that the university violated his freedom of speech. The three-judge panel agreed with U.S. District Judge J. Owen Forrester that Georgia Tech mathematics professor Theodore P. Hill’s civil suit against the Georgia Board of Regents lacked merit. Hill v. Board of Regents, No. 01-11455 (11th Cir. Sept. 13, 2001). Forrester had determined that a government employee does not have an absolute right to freedom of speech if that speech is not public. At issue were interoffice grievances that Hill had filed against his department chairman beginning in 1996. In the suit, Hill claimed that Shui-Nee Chow, then chairman of Tech’s math department, and other administrators had punished him with poor evaluations and “below average” raises after he began publicly criticizing Chow. State audits later confirmed many of Hill’s allegations that Chow had misused university funds, but also suggested that there had been no criminal wrongdoing. Forrester’s order did not dispute Hill’s allegations. Instead, the district judge determined that Hill’s complaint did not qualify as an abuse of the First Amendment because his initial letter to a faculty committee criticizing the math chairman was not a question of public concern because he had labeled it “confidential” and it was not aired in a public venue. In addition, Forrester ruled that the bulk of Hill’s complaint dealt, not with alleged misuse of public funds, but, instead attacked Chow’s managerial style. “When there is a personal element to the speech, complaints of wrongdoing within a public agency may not constitute speech on a matter of public concern,” Forrester wrote.

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