Academic Freedom in Bush Country

From "me, uh... k?" <>
Date Mon, 6 Mar 2000 00:01:27 -0800 (PST)

[: hacktivism :]

I realize that our list isn't particularly devoted to most direct-action
campaigns, but I'm shooting for the offchance that we'll like this fella.

While I realize this is somewhat off-topic, consider:
As a CS Employee, this guy is one of our own.
Suffering several offenses at the hands of the local authorities and abuses
from withtin the organization of Texas A&M, including illieagle search and
seizure, racial harrassment, and others, this particular struggle should
find sympathy with most activists who work to battle racial hatred, police
states and the like.
With that aside, it's fairly long, so I'll shut up.  Anyone have any ideas
on potential ways we can help this guy?  (if nothing else, spreading this
message to other lists and boards could lead to media pressure, which is
always benificial) -mia k. (no tagline, this is business)

[forwarded from the mailing list]

>Date: Fri, 03 Mar 2000 08:42:53 -0500
>From: kelley <>
>Subject: Academic Freedom in Bush Country
>Mime-Version: 1.0
>Precedence: bulk
>>From "Shara Pradhan" <>
> Shara Pradhan í01
> Princeton University
> 67 Spelman Hall
> Princeton, NJ 08544
> (609) 258-7201
> February 26, 2000
> To Whom It May Concern:
> My name is Shara Pradhan.  I am a junior at Princeton University.  I write
> this letter with a sense of great urgency, in the hope of saving my Dad,
> Dr. Dhiraj K. Pradhan, from going to jail in less than two weeks.
> He was a tenured professor, world-renowned in computer science, at Texas
> A&M University.  Within a period of three years he has been illegally
> searched, secretly audited, suspended without due process, lied to by the
> University administration, and wrongfully dismissed. He is now facing
> imprisonment for up to 10 years.
> My Dadís story is representative of the social injustices that continue to
> be prevalent in our nation: the violation of academic freedom of
> expression, racial prejudice, and the abuse of local authority to silence
> an opposing voice.
> I certainly donít expect you to believe the scenario I describe here based
> on my word, but I would beg you to investigate the case.  I believe you
> will find it worth your time, and that the attention you may bring to my
> Dadís case is almost certainly his last hope. My Dad can be contacted at
> 409-690-6539.
> If you would take a few moments to consider his situation, I believe that
> you will find it both disturbing and newsworthy.  I have enclosed a more
> detailed review of the relevant events. Also please do not hesitate to
> contact me.
> Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
>                                                         Sincerely,
>                                                         Shara Pradhan ë01
> My father, Dr. Dhiraj K. Pradhan, was hired in 1992 as the Chair of the
> Computer Science Department at Texas A&M University. Unknown to him, Texas
> A&M University had a history of mistreating its professors. Until 1988 it
> was one of a very small number of schools nationwide blacklisted by the
> American Association of University Professors. (Please also see the
> February 8th, 1998 article of the Bryan/College Station Eagle by John
> Kirsc.) His first (comparatively minor) experience of trouble was the
> Universityís failure to take action when he was confronted with racial
> slurs and harassment within the department.
> After a few years as chair of the department, my father realized that TAMU
> was applying to administrative purposes an inappropriate proportion of the
> Chair accounts, and my father learned that the school was trying to impose
> a post-tenure review on all Texas faculty. He spoke promptly to other
> faculty members concerning the policies, concerned that they would degrade
> the quality of academics, and went on to voice opposition to them in what
> he referred to as a ìpublic forum.î Within 24 hours of the forum (October
> 1996), while my father was out of town on a trip to Washington D.C., the
> University had the computer in his office confiscated.  It contained not
> only his own personal data but intellectual property belonging to his
> students and to colleagues with whom he was working. When he sought a
> reason for the confiscation he was told it had been removed for repairs.
> Meanwhile, obviously without his knowledge, the data from the computer and
> his office files were delivered to the FBI and the District Attorney.
> In November of 1996, disturbed by the length of time his computer had been
> missing, my father tried to exercise his legal right (under the Texas Open
> Records Request) to obtain the real reason for its removal.  The school
> did not respond. Instead he received a letter from the District Attorney
> informing him that the Attorneyís office was proceeding against him with
> an indictment for misallocating funds.  Thus rather than bringing the
> matter to my fatherís attention in order to actually address it, TAMU
> immediately took it to the local authorities in what my family believes
> was a gesture designed to intimidate.  He requested a meeting with the
> administration several times without success. For over two years, the
> University refused to divulge its grounds for conducting the audit, which
> supplied the basis of the indictment. These allegations were never made
> known to my father until August 1997.  At this point, he was suspended
> from his tenured position, without due process of law or any opportunity
> to address the allegations. The suspension was also in violation of TAMU
> procedures.  At some point during this period the University let him
> submit a written response to the allegations against him. Then, without
> his consent, TAMU released it to the FBI and the District Attorney.
> Also in August of 1997, my Father received a Fulbright Chair in Europe,
> but the University implemented travel restrictions which forced him to
> forego it. The National Office of the American Association of University
> Professors intervened on his behalf in September 1997. In a letter to
> President Bowen of TAMU, Robert Kreiser, Association Secretary of the
> AAUPA, questioned the Universityís right to restrict my fatherís travels.
> "We fail to understand," he wrote, "why, if (Professor Pradhan) has no
> duties or commitments at the University, he should not be free to spend
> his time where and how he wishes."
> In March 1998, the formal indictments were brought against my father. The
> law he had allegedly violated was a Texas law called the "Specific Law of
> Abuse of official capacity." This law forbids conducting non-University
> business on trips made primarily for University purposes. The vague
> wording of this law has been challenged by my father in an appeal filed in
> August of 1999 and refiled in December of 1999.
> Up to this point, the local newspapers and media had been unfavorable in
> their portrayal of my father, who is married to a Jewish woman in a
> southern small town. He felt it was unlikely that he would be able to
> secure a fair trial because of their coverage. At the same time he was
> concerned that the vagueness of this law left room for a possible
> conviction. Therefore, after legal counsel, trying to act in our familyís
> best economic and long-term interests, he plead guilty to one count of
> abuse of official capacity with 28 examples. Professor Robert S. Boyer of
> the University of Texas testified on behalf of my father's character,
> adding, "Pradhan is a distinguished fellow in two computer science faculty
> societies. He is a highly ranked professor. He has been grotesquely
> harassed in my opinion." At this point my family and I just wanted to pick
> up the pieces of our lives and move on.
> Meanwhile, in August 1998, in the hearing under Judge Sam Spar in Austinís
> Federal Courts, the Judge found A&M guilty of abuse of due process. He
> ordered the University to reinstate my father immediately, effective
> September 1, 1998. After a few months of reinstatement, a University
> hearing in March 1999 completely disregarded the Judgeís rulings, this
> time by firing him. At that hearing my fatherís students presented glowing
> testimonies about him. Despite these and various testimonies from
> professors around the world to my fatherís professional character, the
> University dismissed him in June of 1999, effective August 10, 1999.
> My father had filed a lawsuit against A&M for violating his 1st, 4th, and
> 14th Amendments and for wrongful termination.  In October of 1999, he
> added the Board of Regents to the suit. Then during Christmas break, in
> what my family suspects was a retaliatory move, my father was arrested for
> photocopying charges he had incurred, for no personal gain, after his
> termination, in violation of his probation. (He had the Head of the
> Department's oral permission, though the Head is now claiming "not to
> remember"). My father had not realized that he was violating probation.
> TAMU decided to push for jail time.  My father was taken to jail without
> bond and incarcerated for three days for photocopying over Christmas!
> Local authorities confiscated his U.S. passport, and he has been unable to
> travel to India to fulfill a prior commitment to teach a class.
> The University has not responded to over 500 letters by professors and
> scientists worldwide trying to protect my Dad from undue punishment. The
> Committee of Concerned Scientists and the American Association of
> University Professors have involved themselves, to no avail.
> My father holds the prestigious Humbolt prize in Germany and had been
> named a fellow of two distinguished computer societies (IEEE and the
> Association of Computing Machines).  He is world-renowned in his field.  I
> mention these accomplishments because, obviously, the last three years
> have been disastrous for a career which he worked very hard to build.
> My fatherís lawyer, Charles Osborn, has summarized this situation thus:
> "(Pradhan) urged the formation of a labor union for professors at A&M to
> fight the new law of post-tenure review. Within 24 hours, the Vice
> Chancellor of Texas A&M began an intense witch hunt to try to find
> accusations against Pradhan." The only way for my Dad to lose his job was
> for him to have to go through this witch-hunt.
>  Already, this situation also seems to be well known within the Academic
> world.
> ** Hired 8/92 as Chaired Professor in TAMU's Computer Science Dept.
> ** Enjoined to make that department 'world-class'.
> ** Suffers racial slurring/harassment within his department; department &
> university do nothing.
> ** Brings in MUCH research $$ for department & TAMU.
> ** TAMU tries (unsuccessfully) to retroactively attach a review clause to
> Pradhan's contract (all other TAMU Chairs have review clause).
> ** Reveals to other Chairs the disproportionate % of Chair accounts TAMU
> helps itself to.
> ** Vocalizes opposition to proposed merger of CS Department with Electr.
> Engr.
> ** Vocalizes opposition to Texas imposing Post-Tenure Review on all TX
> faculty.
> ** Away at conference, Pradhan's office computer is seized by TAMU
> (10/96).
> ** Internal audit of Pradhan commences.
> ** Without due process OR following their own guidelines, TAMU suspends
> him.
> ** Federal District Court judge orders TAMU to reinstate him.
> ** Indictments brought against Pradhan (3/98).
> ** Pradhan plea-bargains (11/98).
> ** Civil suit filed against TAMU by Pradhan
> **  Pradhan fired (8/99).
> ** Pradhan files appeal to overturn all criminal charges against him.
> ** Board of Regents members added to civil suit (fall, '99).
> ** Arrested/jailed for photocopying charges allegedly incurred
> post-termination (12/16/99).
>                  The Battalion January 17th 2000
> Former Texas A&M endowed professor Dhiraj Pradhan claims Texas A&M still
> holds on to some of the same racial grudges that he believes to be part of
> the prejudiced history in the state of Texas.
> "Texas A&M had me jailed on trumped-up charges of using the copy machine,"
> Pradhan said. "Bizarre it may sound -- but this is the old South. They
> don't like me, so they sent me to jail."
> Pradhan, who at one time was the highest-paid computer science professor
> at A&M, said although it has been years since original allegations were
> brought against him by the University, his case remains unsettled and A&M
> refuses to offer any kind of compromise.
> Last week, Pradhan said he was looking for employment outside of the
> United States but had to forfeit job interviews in Europe and India
> because his passport was seized on Dec. 17, 1999 and has not been
> returned. He currently resides in College Station.
> In January an independent investigation National Science Foundation
> exonerated Dr. Pradhan of all wrongdoings. Texas A&M Dean of
> Engineering Dr. Peterson says" We were bit surprised with this final
> report issued by NSF. A&M had assumed that  NSF will corroborate the
> audit report issued by A&M earlier".
> Pradhan said the investigation began only after his outspokenness about
> racial harassment, diversity, and post-tenure review. He claims that Sam
> Sparks, a federal judge in Austin, found that A&M proceeded illegally when
> he was suspended, and Pradhan was immediately reinstated after having been
> on leave with pay.
> Pradhan said he simply wants to be left alone. He said the University has
> brought five criminal charges against him in the past two years.
> "They are squeezing blood out of a stone," Pradhan said.
> Pradhan said the Southern attitude of faculty, staff and administration is
> one of the driving forces behind the University's discriminating
> harassment against minority staff members.
> "I don't think my story is unique," Pradhan said. "There have been many
> cases like mine -- mine just got too much press."
> Pradhan believes false accusations were made against him based entirely on
> his ethnicity. He sent an email message to 600 faculty members in October
> 1996, rallying to form a labor union for A&M professors.
> "Within 24 hours, the vice chancellor of Texas A&M began an intense witch
> hunt to find accusations against Pradhan," said Charles Orsburn, Pradhan's
> Houston attorney, in a Jan. 21, 1998 story in The Battalion.
> Pradhan said two other University professors -- Dr. Richard Wysk and Dr.
> Ignatio Rodriguez -- felt it was imperative to resign from their positions
> at A&M and continue their work elsewhere.
> Wysk is now a professor at Pennsylvania State University's Department of
> Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering.
> Rodriguez is employed by Princeton University's Department of Civil and
> Environmental Engineering. Rodriguez said since he left A&M, he does not
> care to comment on what was still taking place here.
> He said most Indians are treated as second class in his experience of 30
> years in the United States.
> "Indians will never admit this because they are too busy bragging about
> making money," Pradhan said.
> Pradhan said basic rights were violated throughout the duration of the
> accusations and litigation. He claims his rights to due process were
> violated, and that he was subjected to illegal search and seizure.
> On Oct. 28, 1996, Pradhan was in Washington D.C. at an academic
> conference. His computer, computer records and files were seized from his
> office.
> Pradhan said he was arrested at his home on Dec. 15, 1999 and no Miranda
> rights were read.
> Cynthia Larson, executive director of University Relations, declined to
> comment on Pradhan's case -- citing the University's policy of not
> commenting on cases that are still in litigation. Pradhan's attorney was
> not available for comment.
> "I may have made mistakes, but it is time to call it quits," Pradhan said.
> "I dearly feel bad for what has happened, but I just want to be left
> alone."

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