Former UAF professor's appeal rejected

Posted: Sunday, April 29, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The Alaska Supreme Court has turned aside an appeal from a former University of Alaska Fairbanks professor who sued the university over the loss of his job.

Mritunjoy Sengupta, a tenured professor of mineral engineering since 1990, was fired in 1995.

He sued the school in 1997 charging wrongful termination, denial of a request for sick leave, an unjustifiably low salary, and racial discrimination. Sengupta, a United States citizen, is of Indian birth and descent.

Sengupta's firing was largely the result of an investigation spurred by grievances he filed in 1992 and 1993 accusing the university of unfairly passing him over for two promotions and paying him too little, the court said.

University hearing officer James Parrish had concluded that Sengupta had treated colleagues poorly and repeatedly demonstrated a lack of honesty by testifying falsely under oath during a hearing on the matter, plagiarizing another professor and misrepresenting his academic degrees.

Shortly after he was notified of his impending firing, Sengupta went to Superior Court, charging UAF with terminating him in retaliation for filing the grievances.

The court ruled against Sengupta, and in 1997 he filed a pair of lawsuits against the university on several grounds. The suits were dismissed by Superior Court Judge Mary Greene in 1997. Greene awarded UAF $5,300 in attorney fees in the case.

Sengupta then appealed Greene's dismissal, as well as the fee award. The state Supreme Court denied all his assertions.

The justices said Sungupta's claims about insufficient salary and a 1994 denial of sick leave fell outside of the two-year statute of limitations.

On other points, including those of racial discrimination, the court ruled that Sengupta's failure to make or substantiate certain claims much earlier -- such as during the administrative process of his termination or his Superior Court grievance -- Meant he couldn't raise those arguments now.

''Sengupta had a full opportunity to submit evidence of discriminatory motive in conjunction with his ... discrimination claim but failed to produce any such evidence,'' reads the ruling. The justices also said evidence of discrimination introduced later before the Superior Court was insubstantial.

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