University of Iowa may fire prof over eMails

The Iowa Civil Rights Commission is investigating a professor's eMails.

The University of Iowa (UI) has started proceedings that could lead to the firing of a radiology professor who sent dozens of “prejudiced, insulting, and inflammatory” eMails to colleagues accusing them of being anti-Arab and threatening to sue and embarrass them, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press (AP).

Malik Juweid compared his department’s chairwoman to ousted Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, sent a copy of his birth certificate showing he is Christian to a colleague he accused of having an anti-Muslim bias, and urged UI President Sally Mason to take action “before this all hits the press,” according to the university’s notice of charges sent in a letter this week.

Juweid gave the letter and related documents to AP, saying he sent the eMails in frustration but didn’t think they should be enough to strip him of tenure, a job protection that bars professors from being fired without cause.

Juweid has been on paid leave for more than a month from his $241,000-per-year job in the division of nuclear medicine.

“The university will never be able to terminate (me) based on these accusations and they underestimate the right of free speech and academic freedom of a tenured professor,” he said. “I followed the university manual, which says that vigorous debate should not be interpreted as a lack of respect. I admit I was vigorous in my critique as I am in scientific meetings and at conferences.”

Juweid, 49, claimed he’s being punished for embarrassing coworkers with reports of discrimination and retaliation.

The Iowa Civil Rights Commission is investigating Juweid’s claims that a superior called him “an academic terrorist,” referred to an employee of Pakistani descent as “Osama bin Laden” and made derogatory remarks about Asian doctors.

A university review found radiology chair Laurie Fajardo likely made some derogatory statements, but they did not constitute discrimination against Juweid.

In the letter dated Feb. 15, Associate Provost Tom Rice turned the tables, saying Juweid had unfairly accused colleagues of treating him differently because he is Arab and they mistakenly believed he was Muslim.

Rice quoted one eMail in which Juweid warned that Fajardo would try to play the “Arab/Jew card” to drive a wedge between him and medical college dean Paul Rothman, who is Jewish.

In another, Juweid wrote Rothman might be prejudiced against him “because of the Arab/Jew issue going on for centuries.”

Juweid told medical college associate dean Lois Geist he was Christian “even if some think I am a Muslim like some think of Obama” and sent her a scanned copy of his Jordanian birth certificate to prove his Christianity.

In a Feb. 1 message to colleagues, Juweid expressed frustration that Fajardo would not resign like Mubarak was expected to do. He called the comparison fair, saying Fajardo was feared and hated by her subordinates just like the Egyptian dictator.

Rice wrote he found reason to believe Juweid had violated university policies on eMail use and requiring faculty members to show respect for colleagues.

He cited excerpts from 27 eMails sent over the past year that he said subjected Juweid’s colleagues to “personal vilification and verbal abuse.” He said those were “just a sample” of those in question. The university was seeking disciplinary action that could include termination, he wrote.

A second letter said Rice’s office had received complaints from the medical college that Juweid violated policies governing retaliation, harassment, and disruptive behavior and would ask an outside investigator to look into them.

Rice noted Juweid signed an agreement in 2008 to clean up his eMails after the school received complaints about their tone and content. Juweid identified those who complained as a prominent University of Chicago professor and a National Institutes of Health employee.

“In making these statements, you have disparaged and attacked the character and integrity of colleagues at the University and other institutions,” Rice wrote. “Even if there are valid reasons to disagree with the actions or statements of the various people you identified in these remarks, your abusive tone is unprofessional, unnecessary, and embarrassing to yourself and the University.”

Juweid stood by all of his eMails.

“They always represented how I felt, and they reflected my interpretation of what’s happening around me, and how I was treated differently from others who had different backgrounds,” said Juweid, who has been at UI since 2000.

He added: “I feel that about 10 percent of my department employees are prejudiced, bigots, Arab-haters and Muslim-haters. Thank God, 90 percent of people are decent people who are not like that.”

Rice, Fajardo, Geist, and Rothman did not immediately return messages on Feb. 17 . University spokesman Tom Moore had no immediate comment on Feb. 17 but said last month that Juweid had been placed on paid administrative leave at the recommendation of the university’s threat assessment team, which investigates cases of potential workplace violence.

Juweid has denied threatening or harassing anyone, and the university has refused to elaborate on why Juweid was barred from seeing patients, doing research, or setting foot on campus without a police escort during the investigation.

The university this week went further, suspending Juweid’s access to his school eMail account. Juweid said he needed access to old eMails to defend himself, and a university police officer delivered a CD containing them to him on Feb. 16.

But at 5:45 a.m. on Feb. 17, Juweid sent an eMail from his private account to Mason, Board of Regents President David Miles and others saying he could not get the CD to work and threatening to have the FBI raid his office if the situation wasn’t solved by 9 a.m.

“I DO NOT WISH ANY MORE BAD PUBLICITY FOR ME OR THE UNIVERSITY,” he wrote, copying an AP reporter on the message.

Sign up for our newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Sign up for our newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.