October 31, 2014
LSU Chancellor F.K. Alexander, 3810 West Lakeshore Drive, Baton Rouge, LA 70808
I joined LSU from outside in June 2006 as Department Chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. I was removed from that position in May 2008. I was on 100% secondment at the National Science Foundation, with LSU approval, from August 2010 to August 2014. Throughout my time at LSU I have been treated with totally unprofessional behavior by faculty, staff and administration. I set out the details below. HRM is implicated in some of the cover-ups and failures in this matter so there would be serious conflicts of interest if HRM were to undertake an enquiry into these issues. I am therefore requesting a completely independent formal inquiry into my disgraceful treatment here, by a senior person outside of HRM, the Provost’s Office, and the LSU Engineering College, and preferably outside of LSU untainted by the corruption and dishonesty that appears to pervade all levels of LSU.
Rumors of complaints against me that have never been brought to my attention by LSU
I am aware of a number of complaints against me that were never brought to my attention. It is clear from subsequent events that these were used as reasons to remove me from the ECE Chairmanship. I never had the opportunity to refute those allegations. This is unprofessional behavior by a number of LSU officials including those in the Dean’s and Provost’s office. This has gone beyond the stage of a witch-hunt and ECE now just heaps continual and unchecked abuse onto me. This would be reasonable if I had behaved unprofessionally, but no-one ever publicly accused me of anything unprofessional; only cowardly accusations were made behind my back, so I could not respond directly. The ones I am aware of are:
I understand that I was accused of using Department money inappropriately to buy certain equipment for my laboratory. This is false; I obtained a grant for the equipment in question. Why was this not formally reported to me so that I could refute it?
I have recently heard rumors alleging that I lied to the faculty on interview about my tenure at Iowa State University. This is absolutely not true. Former Dean Bassiouni asked me about this at interview and I told him the full and complete story. It is not my fault if he did not pass this on to the faculty, yet I seem to continue to suffer as a result of ineptitude by others. Why have these accusations not been reported to me by LSU so that I can refute them?
Dr. El-Amawy (former ECE professor) seemed to think, and told others, that I was not a proper academic at the University of Sheffield. This is not true. I was a Lecturer and then Senior Lecturer at Sheffield, widely accepted as the UK equivalents of Assistant and Associate Professor in the US system, since the titles assistant and associate professor are not used in the UK. A Lecturer in the UK is the entry-level teaching + research + service position for a PhD holder with expected postdoctoral experience, rather than a short-term contract instructor-type position as in the US. UK Lecturer positions are initially annual probationary appointments and confirmed as permanent only after several years, the UK equivalent of getting tenure, which of course I easily achieved with my outstanding record. Why was this accusation never reported to me by LSU?
Dr. El-Amawy reported that LSU thought that I am not even qualified to be an Associate Professor. My résumé is actually one of the strongest, if not the strongest, of anyone in ECE. I have been awarded many millions of dollars in external research grants from numerous funding agencies both in the US and Europe. I have published many high-quality journal papers. Why was this accusation not reported to me by LSU?
I understand that Dr. El-Amawy’s formal evaluation was rewritten by another in Summer 2008. Dean Bassiouni directed me to write unsatisfactory evaluations for him in the Spring of both 2007 and 2008, and both my evaluations of him were agreed word-for-word with Dean Bassiouni before submission precisely to protect my position. If the second evaluation were inaccurate for some reason, why was that not brought to my attention so that I could respond and point out that Dean Bassiouni had agreed it verbatim? Why did I have no opportunity to respond to this clear activity to discredit me when the real culprit was Bassiouni in giving me totally inaccurate advice? What action was taken against Bassiouni over this matter?
Removal from Chairmanship of ECE Department, June 2008
I never received any formal confidential evaluations in 2007 and 2008 of my work at LSU from appointment until June 2008. This is irregular. I am formally requesting to be sent a copy of the relevant evaluations, and an explanation of why these have never been sent to me previously. I doubt that you will be able to provide them as they were never made.
In responding to rumors of a plot to remove me, Dean Bassiouni told me in April 2008 that my position was not in danger, and that I had far more credibility than those trying to get rid of me. He also stated clearly that he would contact the incoming Dean and explain that the clear problems in ECE were not my fault and that I should not be removed because of those problems. There is evidence that a small number of ECE Faculty never wanted me appointed and resolved from the start that they would do their best to destabilize me and have me removed. I suspect Dean Bassiouni even understood that. I should not have suffered in any way as a result of that vocal and unreasonable minority maintaining their view. Yet I was removed in June 2008. I do not believe that Dean Bassiouni ever contacted the new Dean to explain the situation. He lied to me and seriously and deliberately misled me. What happened in such a short time? Why was no reason given? Why was I given no warning, after having been told I was doing an excellent job? Why was I assured that I was doing an excellent job if, apparently, that was not the case?
There is clear evidence that Dean Bassiouni saw a message that Dr. Kak (former ECE professor) had obtained illegally concerning me and my previous employment at Iowa State University. Dean Bassiouni clearly assumed it was genuine and apparently acted upon it even though it was obviously obtained illegally and contained serious inaccuracies. If so, I require to know who sent it. If LSU does not know who sent it, why was it taken so seriously? If LSU does know who sent it, why has this information been withheld from me?
I was removed as Chair with no explanation and no warning, and with no opportunity to correct whatever was wrong. Why was this done? The Provost’s Office have acknowledged that this was “not in accordance with best practice,” rather an understatement. Rather, it is grossly unprofessional and unethical. I am formally requesting to be given copies of the relevant documentation showing the reason.
As a result my salary was significantly reduced with no warning or explanation as my Distinguished Professorship was removed and I reverted to a 9-month salary, not 10 months.
I asked the Provost’s office some further serious questions about this situation on September 11, 2014, and have received no reply to date. This is unprofessional of the Provost’s office.
I was appointed with startup funding of just $40k since I was appointed as an administrator. Since I was removed for no reason, I am supposed to have a Full Professor's research program running. This is impossible without appropriate startup funding. In my field (microelectronics), a typical market rate startup package is $500k at appointment. If LSU expects me to undertake a substantial research program appropriate for a full professor, I am formally requesting an additional startup package now of $460k, commensurate with what is needed to establish a full professor’s research program in my field. Without this startup, I cannot be expected to produce a research program even approaching that of an assistant professor in my Department, always appointed with a far larger startup.
I have recently been made aware of a rumor that a letter was sent by a small number of faculty to the Provost demanding my removal. Why was I not shown this letter if it contained accusations, and given the opportunity to respond? Why was any action taken if it contained no accusations? I am formally requesting a copy of that letter if it exists or if it does not exist a clear statement to that effect.
Miscellaneous breaches of confidentiality
During the national search for ECE Chair in early 2010, Dr. Wu (ECE professor) reported to me that Dr. Srivastava (ECE professor and Search Committee member) had discussed with him the applications received, including mine, despite every page of my application being marked as confidential. PS-40 makes clear that breach of confidentiality such as this can result in termination of the transgressor. I am making a formal complaint of clear breach of confidentiality by Dr. Srivastava.
During the national search for SEECS Director in early 2013, Wu (ECE professor) reported to me that Dr. Kannan (CS professor and Search Committee member) had discussed with him the applications received, including mine, despite every page of my application being marked as strictly confidential and the cover letter referencing PS-40. I am making a formal complaint of clear breach of confidentiality by Dr. Kannan.
Inappropriate procedures during ECE Chair appointment, September/October 2013
While on rotation at NSF with the full knowledge and approval of LSU, and acting as a Federal Official in Washington DC, I applied for this position. I was shortlisted. The Engineering Dean’s Office informed me that LSU would not pay my travel expenses back to LSU (e-mail October 21) even though the Dean was well aware that I was away from LSU long-term with LSU agreement. This is extraordinary and unprofessional for a senior appointment. On October 22, Dean Koubek told me that he expected me to arrange for NSF to pay for my travel back to LSU. This is a serious Federal crime – incitement of a Federal Official to commit a felony. Returning for a job interview is clearly LSU business and it would be absolutely illegal for NSF to have paid for that. As a job applicant I should not have been put in the position by Dean Koubek, the hiring officer, of telling him that he was breaking Federal law. The hiring official (Dean Koubek) clearly expected a job applicant to agree to anything he wanted in order to be appointed. He even told me that there was no account to which this could be charged, clearly a lie. This is abuse of position. If he did not want to pay, he should not have shortlisted me. After I had pointed out his illegal action, I was not appointed. Instead, Dean Koubek appointed a far poorer candidate. This is clear evidence of retaliation and was a major irregularity in the procedure.
Dr. Ajmera (outgoing ECE Interim Chair) attended both the Faculty meeting with me and also the Chairs’ meeting with me later. As outgoing Interim Chair, this was inappropriate. I reported this to Dean Koubek at the time. He agreed with me that this was inappropriate. I am not aware of any action being taken subsequently.
The Provost’s office (e-mail September 9, 2014) informed me that this was actually an election, not a selection. This procedure was never publicly announced as an election; quite the contrary, applicants had to furnish to the Dean “a cover letter expressing your interest” which was never circulated to the faculty. This expression of interest would not have been necessary for an election. Nor would the scheduled meetings with persons other than the faculty have been necessary for an election. Either it was an election or it was not, and this needs clarifying. If it was an election, it should have been announced as such from the beginning, and the procedure should then have been different. If not an election, then the poorest candidate was selected by the Dean.
Clear retaliation against me over many years
Retaliation is illegal. Yet it has taken place in ECE against me continually.
Despite the fact that Senior Design is an accreditation requirement, Dr. Aravena (former ECE professor and Chair after me) and others fought viciously to prevent it in the UG ECE curricula. Dr. Aravena and others also fought viciously to prevent a new faculty appointment in Power Systems, a much-needed area of expansion. I had cause to reprimand Dr. Aravena for his blatant abuse of the Departmental e-mail system.
Dr. Aravena also incorrectly believed that I had him and Dr. El-Amawy removed from the Graduate School. In fact, the Associate VPR contacted me, not the other way around, to tell me that the Graduate Committee had determined itself that Dr. Aravena did not merit Graduate School membership, and to offer me the opportunity to write in his defense as his last opportunity. He hadn’t done any research for the past ten years and had a very weak case. I asked Dr. Aravena to draft a letter for me to send, since he would know much better than I what his strengths were. I sent it as he wrote it. He was duly removed from Graduate School membership because his record was poor. Shortly afterwards, Graduate School membership was determined by Chairs, so we then had the absurdity of Graduate School membership in ECE being determined by someone incapable of it himself. Dr. El-Amawy had an even worse record and was quite correctly removed from the Graduate School later.
At a Promotion and Tenure meeting of the tenured faculty on October 21, 2009, to discuss Dr. Choi’s case, Dr. Aravena circulated to all present, without permission, a minority report that I had written on that case the previous year. This report was clearly marked “Strictly Confidential” precisely to prevent him circulating it freely. His unprofessional disregard of confidentiality was another attempt to undermine me. I brought this to the attention of the Dean but I have no idea what action was taken against Dr. Aravena. Clearly not much, because Dr. Aravena was soon after appointed Chair.
As a result, Dr. Aravena retaliated against me continually. For example, Dr. Aravena deliberately delayed approving my research proposals. With zero notice Dr. Aravena required me to take over from another in week 2 a complex class (EE3320) that I had never taught before. For a period I was not listed on the website as a faculty member concerned with the Electronic Materials and Devices Laboratory, my research area.
In June 2009 I was awarded what was then the largest single-PI NSF grant in the ECE Department’s history. Dr. Aravena, as ECE Interim Chair, repeatedly refused to acknowledge that this was a creditable achievement or to offer me any praise or encouragement to obtain further grants, even in a meeting with the Dean present (September 14, 2009). Instead, Dr. Aravena’s response was to take away my sole research laboratory and my entire research equipment and to deliver it to Dr. Ajmera who had an almost non-existent record of external awards and did not even understand my equipment. Only after the intervention of the Dean, who placed the laboratory and equipment under College management (unprecedented in my experience), was I able to maintain normal control of my laboratory and equipment. Dr. Aravena even attempted insubordination to prevent this. Dr. Aravena continued to attempt suppression of my research by refusing to issue a laboratory key to me. I was locked out of my laboratory from November 14 to December 14, 2009 until I obtained a key by other means.
Despite having an excellent record and experience matching or surpassing that of those interviewed, I was not shortlisted for either the search for ECE Chair in early 2010 or the search for SEECS Director in early 2013. This also may be further evidence of retaliation by members of the respective search committees.
On June 12, 2010 I sent a formal complaint to Dr. Michael V. Martin, then LSU Chancellor, regarding the unprofessional behavior of Dr. El-Amawy and his role in having me removed as Chair unprofessionally. I understand that this was passed to HRM for action. I never received any response to this complaint, yet it included a copy of a disgraceful letter sent by Dr. El Amawy admitting many unprofessional activities by him and by others still within LSU. This is clear unprofessional behavior by HRM in participating in a cover-up of faculty unprofessional behavior.
Confidential information concerning my employment was deliberately revealed by Dr. Aravena in a Faculty meeting in September 2010 without my knowledge or permission. Dr. Aravena was even subsequently appointed Chair, despite his insubordination and incompetence. At no time did the ECE Interim Chair offer me any explanation or apology for his outrageous behavior and retaliation against me.
In October 2010 an employee in the ECE front office divulged confidential information about me over the telephone to a caller unknown to the front office. This was reported to HRM. Astonishingly, HRM (Normand) initially supported the ECE front office. This displays total incompetence. Only when I pointed out how unprofessional this was did HRM back down. I am not aware what action was subsequently taken, either against Normand or against ECE. I am still awaiting an apology and explanation from the ECE front office. I am also still awaiting an apology from the ECE administration for not confirming as requested that my summer salary was loaded in 2011.
During the ECE Chair meetings in October 2013, Dr. Feldman (ECE Professor) at one point made a strong defense of Dr. El-Amawy, describing him as “fair and even handed,” despite the latter having been seriously criticized for unethical behavior by the IEEE (the professional society for Electrical Engineers) and as a result having to leave the IEEE, a professional condemnation. Dr. Feldman’s support was clearly inappropriate and calls into question Feldman’s own judgment and professionalism.
I have a record of achievements and diverse experience considerably better than most or all of the other professors in ECE, yet I am the only ECE Professor not holding a Distinguished Professorship. This is clear evidence of hostility and retaliation by successive ECE Chairs.
I suffered two close bereavements recently. The ECE Department runs a fund to send condolences to faculty and staff who suffer close bereavements. Dr. Ajmera (then ECE Interim Chairman) knew of my bereavements and of the previous custom and practice in ECE, but did not send anything to help ease me through that difficult time. Dr. Ajmera was even prepared to use bereavements as a way of retaliating against me.
The Provost’s office told me in Summer 2014 that faculty having administrative appointments have their raises decided by their administrative supervisor, not their Department Chair. Two raises were determined (2013 and 2014) while I was working 100% effort at NSF with the full knowledge and formal permission of LSU. On neither occasion was anybody at NSF consulted regarding the work I was doing or how well I was doing it. Neither Dr. Ajmera nor Dr. Trahan has any understanding of the work I was doing at NSF, no understanding of why it is important to ECE, no knowledge of how well I did it, and did not even bother to ask the senior staff at NSF about how challenging my NSF work was and how well I undertook my duties at NSF. Yet the Provost’s office claims that these raises must be decided on merit. A “merit raise” cannot be decided without knowing what someone is doing and how well he is doing it. Yet that wasn’t done in my case. I raised this with HRM (Ms. Normand) and I have received no reply to my question (January 11, 2014) about whether it should be required to consult NSF to decide the deserved merit raise of a person on 100% assignment at NSF away from LSU with the full agreement of LSU. Nor has the Provost’s office responded to this question (e-mail September 11, 2014, and also raised earlier than that). Drs. Ajmera and Trahan gave me derisory raises as clear retaliation, despite my being selected by the Director of NSF for a distinguished award recognizing my excellent work at NSF. NSF permanent staff employees receive a substantial raise (over and above the baseline raise value) and a cash payment on receiving this award. [Most rotators stay at NSF only one year, and staying as many as four years, the legal absolute maximum, is an indication in itself of the value that NSF placed upon my contributions the entire time I was at NSF. Yet LSU is apparently happy to allow continued retaliation against me by successive Department Chairs.]
As witnesses, I suggest you discuss all these matters with < redacted > and < redacted >.