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Joy of tenure: Public university seemingly can’t fire prof with string of arrests, convictions

August 11, 2015

My most recent blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

Prof. Shankar: What’s a little larceny?

Here’s Shankar’s criminal history, as reported on Aug. 7 in the Hartford Courant:

“The professor, Ravi Shankar, has a string of arrests and convictions on his record, culminating with his most recent arrest July 29 at a Home Depot in Middletown. Police say he took merchandise totaling $1,339.75, which he had not purchased, and took it to the returns desk for a store credit.

“Shankar was charged with third-degree larceny shoplifting for the incident and released on $5,000 bond. He is due in court on those charges Wednesday….

“Shankar has two other criminal cases pending in Connecticut, including an arrest for operating a vehicle with a suspended license in New Britain and another arrest for evading responsibility in an accident after an incident in December 2014 in Chester. He also has several previous criminal convictions in Connecticut.

“Shankar was hired at CCSU in 2002 and was promoted in August 2014 from tenured associate professor to full professor while serving a 90-day pretrial confinement period related to his previous cases.”

But according to the American Association of University Professors, even someone with a record as capacious as Shankar’s can’t get bounced–because none his offenses directlly related to his classroom or scholarly performance. Michael J. Olivas, former general counsel for the AAUP put it this way in an interview with Inside Higher Education:

“A tax evasion conviction raises considerable doubt as to a tax law professor’s ability to teach or do research, for example, Olivas said. But for a history professor? Not so much.

“’The crime has to be tied to your core academic professional competencies,’ he said. ‘Beyond that, [adequate cause] also means moral turpitude, which traditionally means sleeping with students, taking bribes, behaving in a felonious manner, making threats to campus or trying to harm students.’

“Olivas said he knew no additional details about Shankar’s case, but that when a professor in general seems to be unstable or in trouble, the onus should be on an administration to step in and see if the professor needs professional help prior to seeking dismissal.

“’This has all the hallmarks of someone who’s wildly out of control,’ Olivas said. ‘But no one’s said he’s missed class, or not met his obligations of meeting with students or getting students’ exams back in a timely manner. If all those things are in order, I’d say they’d have a high burden [of proof] before removing him.’”

Posted by Charlotte Allen

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