The Former Dean of the College of Engineering is suing the University of Alaska Anchorage, claiming discrimination and his resignation was coerced.
A 17-page complaint filed in Anchorage Superior Court, reveals that Dr. Tien-Chien Jen is claiming that he was bullied into resigning by Provost Dr. Elisha Baker. The Court documents acquired by The Northern Light also claim that Dr. Jen was discriminated for his Taiwanese descent.
Dr. Jen claims that Dr. Baker threatened him into resigning in order to deny the Former Dean a tenured post within the Engineering Department. The complaint asserts that the dean’s contract guaranteed him this post after dismissal as dean of the College of Engineering and the denial of the position amounts to a breach of contract.
The University announced his abrupt resignation, citing personal reasons in May. However as the documents reveal, this surprise was shared by Dr. Jen. He asserts that he was summoned to a meeting with the Provost on May 8th, without any written or informal notice on what the meeting would be about.
The Provost, according to the documents, accused Dr. Jen of attempting to defraud the University after he “sought and obtained dual or redundant reimbursement for travel between Anchorage and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee,” where the dean had formerly been employed.
Allegedly the Provost gave Dr. Jen the options of voluntarily resigning or facing further legal investigation and charges. With these choices Dr. Jen decided to resign.
The documents state that Dr. Jen had fully reimbursed the UWM but gave no mention of the UAA.
The details on the Provost’s claims are uncertain as of now as Dr. Jen was unable to reached at this time and Provost Baker declined to comment on the case.
However the complaint alleges that the Provost asked Dr. Jen for his immediate resignation under a threatening atmosphere.
The document further claims that the punitive atmosphere was heightened by an armed campus police officer in the vicinity of the meeting room. After Dr. Jen resigned he was immediately escorted by the officer off campus.
The dean’s voluntary resignation forfeited his ability to remain with the University as a tenured College of Engineering faculty member. Dr. Jen claims that he was unaware that by signing the resignation, he would lose the tenured position. Allegedly he was unable to consult a legal representative or his family before signing the document.
The complaint asserts that under these conditions he was denied procedural due process guaranteed by the public university.
Additionally the Former Dean claims the University of Alaska Anchorage broke its promise of discretion within an email sent out to university faculty and staff announcing Dr. Jen’s resignation on May 13. The email stated that the decision was made after a conversation between Provost Baker and then Dean Jen over “some matters of concern.” The documents claims that this hurt his reputation and broke promises made by the university to not injure Dr. Jen’s public standing
The Complaint also asserts that two weeks prior to this meeting, The Dean of Engineering and the Provost had a disagreement over disciplinary action for a fellow Taiwanese faculty member.
The complaint states that the Professor was alleged to have made inappropriate comments to a senior within the Engineering program.
According to the court documents, the Provost advocated for removing the professor from his position while Dean Jen disagreed and claimed the professor was misunderstood.
The complaint levies this situation as a representation of the the quote “discriminatory employment practice favored by the Provost.”
For this Dr. Jen is seeking either one million dollars in lost income and damages or reinstatement as a tenured faculty member at the University.
How the University will respond to these charges remains to be seen. Provost Baker made a statement that a decision will be made the University by Friday August 8th. For now the case has been moved to the US District Court.