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January 24. 2013 10:37PM

Fired UNH professor sues, alleges racial, gender bias

BRENTWOOD - A former University of New Hampshire professor who was fired last year is now suing the university, claiming she was let go because she tried to enforce academic standards and was also a target of racial and gender discrimination.

Roslyn K. Chavda of Nottingham brought the suit against the university system Tuesday in an attempt to get her job back after she was terminated from her position within the Master of Public Administration program.

In the suit filed in Rockingham County Superior Court, Chavda claims she was subjected to a hostile environment because she's a black woman and also a mother. She also alleges the university retaliated against her for expressing concerns about the way the MPA program was being run.

Erika Mantz, director of media relations at UNH, declined to comment on the allegations Thursday, saying the university hasn't been provided with a copy of the lawsuit.

Chavda was hired as an assistant professor of political science in 2005 and began teaching in the Master of Public Administration program in 2006.

According to the suit, Chavda was hired despite a hiring freeze at the university. Her race "became a reference point for her hiring by her peers within the department," the suit said.

After she began working at UNH, Chavda experienced problems related to her pregnancy and premature births of her twins and was required to remain on bed rest, which affected her ability to teach, she suit said.

The suit said her husband, who was "similarly credentialed," completed one of her teaching obligations while the program chairman was required to teach one of Chavda's other courses for a period of time.

"Thereafter, in addition to racial issues relating to her hiring, it became evident that Dr. Chavda's obstetric requirements resulted in significant consequences for her. Upon completion of her first year of teaching, she was subjected to a scathing, and largely false, performance review. It became apparent to her that . due to her race and gender-based issues, she was subjected to a level of scrutiny and hostility absent from the treatment of others who were similarly situated," the suit said.

Chavda claims she repeatedly expressed concern about what she felt was "disparate treatment" to her superiors at UNH, but her complaints were either dismissed or ignored, the suit said.

Chavda also maintains that her treatment resulted from her criticisms of the MPA program.

"With no barrier to entry, save payment of tuition, the students of the MPA program were often unprepared for its demands. Additionally, a significant portion of its participants worked full time, taking courses in the evening. Presumably driven by concern for revenue, a number of students were admitted over the objection of faculty, and failing grades were converted to class withdrawals by the program administration. It was not unusual for students to repeat the same course multiple times," the suit said.

Chavda complained about student admissions and performance because, the suit said, she was "focused on academic performance rather than institutional income."

Her demands weren't always popular with the "unqualified" students in her class, the suit said.

"Given the now-established perception rooted in race and gender, and despite the MPA program's institutional failings, D. Chavda's performance was measured against those situated very differently resulting, unsurprisingly, in a purportedly 'objective' deficit that was nothing of the sort," the suit said.

She argues the UNH administration failed to respond to her complaints in any meaningful way.

Chavda was fired in May 2012 "purportedly" due to the poor reviews and a failure to publish peer-reviewed articles in scholarly journals, the suit said.

However, she claims that the university continues to employ an untenured professor hired around the same time who also hasn't published the articles. The suit points out that the professor is a white man.

Chavda wants the court to reinstate her with retroactive seniority, back pay and reimbursement for all lost employment benefits. The suit also seeks other damages, including payment for emotional and financial loss.

Chavda's Portsmouth lawyer, Lawrence Gormley, could not be reached for comment Thursday.



jschreiber@newstote.com


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