Former professor files 2nd appeal in state court

Kamariea Forcier

A former assistant professor who won a 1994 case against the University in the Minnesota Court of Appeals has filed a second claim with the appeals court claiming she was wrongfully denied tenure. She has also filed a suit in federal court alleging race, gender and age discrimination.
Aparna Ganguli was a professor in General College from 1985 to 1992. She started on the six-year tenure-track program in 1986.
Ganguli, who is from India, said that University administrators discriminated against her when they denied her tenure in 1992.
Attorneys for the University disagree that Ganguli’s claims of discrimination were a factor in their decision to deny her tenure.
“The general issue,” said Julie Sweitzer, an attorney in the office of the General Council at the University, “was that she simply had not met the standards set forth in the tenure code.”
Professors must “demonstrate the potential to contribute significantly to the mission of the University,” according to the tenure code at the University. Ganguli did not demonstrate this potential in the six years she was on the tenure track, according to University attorneys.
At the end of six years, if a faculty member is not given tenure, he or she must leave the University.
During the sixth year of Ganguli’s appointment, tenured faculty in the science, business and mathematics division of General College voted 12-2 in favor of Ganguli’s tenure.
The Non-Health Sciences Promotion and Tenure Committee voted 3-1, with one abstention, in favor of Ganguli’s tenure. Her application for full tenure was then recommended by Anne Hopkins, former University vice provost.
However, Ettore Infante, former senior vice president for academic affairs and a former University provost, denied her tenure and terminated her appointment.
Ganguli appealed the 1992 tenure denial to the University Senate Judicial Committee. The three-member panel made up of faculty members denied her appeal, so Ganguli appealed to the entire 33-member committee. The full committee also denied her appeal.
Ganguli then took her case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
Because the University Senate Judicial Committee is equivalent to District Court, cases from the committee can only be appealed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
“From its inception, this case has been riddled with error,” stated the 1994 court’s decision of Ganguli’s case.
The court ordered that the University Judicial Senate committee re-evaluate Ganguli’s application for tenure. A ten-member committee denied her request for tenure a second time in November 1995. They then forwarded their recommendation to President Nils Hasselmo, who affirmed their decision in February 1996.
After the second denial for tenure was made, Ganguli filed a second appeal to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. That court will make a decision in the next 90 days.
Ganguli also filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court in August of 1996, requesting the University pay more than $50,000 for emotional distress resulting from race, gender, and age discrimination.
University attorneys said they believe this claim has no merit because all the claims repeat those made in the state appeals court.
Ganguli’s attorney, Beth Bertelson, said the case filed in federal court raises different issues than those in appeals court.
“Different issues require different venues,” Bertelson said.
During the second hearing made in the University Senate Judicial committee meetings, Ganguli had requested the meetings be open to the public to ensure fairness.
Senate Judicial committee meetings are always closed to the public when personnel issues are discussed. Although Ganguli waived her right to privacy, the meetings continued to be closed. As a result, Bertelson said Ganguli questions whether she received a fair hearing.
“The University seemed to rubber-stamp the issue in order to save face in light of the decision by the court of appeals,” Bertelson said. “There was no chance for other professors affected to hear what’s going on.”