Ivy League Prof Sues Students For Being Mean to Her

Click to viewA Dartmouth lecturer is suing her class for discrimination, as she revealed in a series of regrettable and bizarre emails that promptly ended up all over Dartmouth blogs. Priya Venkatesan (Dartmouth '90, MS in Genetics, PhD in literature) emailed members of her Winter '08 Writing 5 class Saturday night to announce her intention to seek damages from them for their being mean to her. The email, and so, so much more, below:

Date: Sat, 26 Apr 2008 20:56:35
From: Priya Venkatesan
Subject: WRIT.005.17.18-WI08: Possible lawsuit

Dear former class members of Science, Technology and Society:

I tried to send an email through my server but got undelivered messages. I regret to inform you that I am pursuing a lawsuit in which I am accusing some of you (whom shall go unmentioned in this email) of violating Title VII of anti-federal discrimination laws.

The feeling that I am getting from the outside world is that Dartmouth is considered a bigoted place, so this may not be news and I may be successful in this lawsuit. I am also writing a book detailing my eperiences as your instructor, which will "name names" so to speak. I have all of your evaluation and these will be reproduced in the book.

Have a nice day.

Anti-federal discrimination laws? That's serious business. Or whatever the exact opposite of serious business is.

The details of the discrimination and harassment? Students didn't pay attention to her, complained about her to her boss, and accused her of not "accepting opinions contrary to her own" and said she would "lower the grades of students her disagreed with her." In other words, the exact smarmy complaints all entitled college students level against inexperienced teachers.

From the Dartmouth News:

As an example of Venkatesan's rejection of views different from her own, the student highlighted Venkatesan's cancelation of class for a week after the class applauded a student who contradicted Venkatesan's opinions about post-modernism.

Venkatesan said the incident occurred when she was lecturing about "The Death of Nature," a book by Carolyne Merchant, and the witch trials of the Renaissance. The student went on a "diatribe" about the inappropriate nature of challenging patriarchal authority, Venkatesan said. Vakatesan respected the student's right to express this opinion, she said, but the manner in which he vocalized his views and the applause afterward were disrespectful and offensive.

"I was horrified," Venkatesan said. "My responsibility is not to stifle them, but when they clapped at his comment, I thought that crossed the line ... I was facing intolerance of ideas and intolerance of freedom of expression."

She was horrified! Horrified that an Ivy League undergrad bitched about hearing some academic nonsense about the entrenched power structures that got them where they are today! (No winners in this story, folks.)

The emails apparently started last Friday, when Venkatesan emailed seven or more students to warn of a "possible lawsuit" against them.

From: Priya Venkatesan
Sent: Friday, April 25, 2008
Subject: Class Action Suit

Dear Student:

As a courtesy, you are being notified that you are being named in a potential class action suit that is being brought against Dartmouth College, which is being accused of violating federal anti-discrimination laws. Please do not respond to this email because it will be potentially used against you in a court of law.

Priya Venkatesan, PhD

From: Priya Venkatesan
Sent: Friday, April 25, 2008
Subject: Class Action Suit

Dear Student:

Please disregard the previous email sent by Priya Venkatesan. This is to officially inform you that you are being accused of violating Title VII pertaining to federal anti-discrimination laws, by the plaintiff, Priya Venkatesan. You are being specifically accused of, but not limited to, harassment. Please do not respond to this email as it will be used against you in a court of law.

Priya Venkatesan, PhD

In a statement to Dartblog, Venkatesan reveals that she's retained an attorney from New Hampshire, and that she has absolutely no clue what a class-action suit is or how it works.

The students I am naming in this suit were mostly from Winter 08 term with a few from Fall. Essentially, I am pursuing litigation to see if I have a legal claim, that is, if the inappropriate and unprofessional behavior I was subjected to as a Research Associate and Lecturer at Dartmouth constitutes discrimination and harrassment [sic] on the basis of ethnicity, race and gender. This includes not just students, but a few faculty members that I worked with.

Possibly on the advice of her lawyer, Venkatesan is now making it more clear that she's suing Dartmouth for harassment by her superior in the writing program, but she won't let go of her brilliant idea to also sue the students who didn't like her very much.

According to her Dartmouth bio, Venkatesan's "current position is as Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Medicine at Dartmouth Medical School, which will form the basis of [her] latest manuscript, A Postmodernist in the Laboratory." We can't believe her bio leaves out the fact that this manuscript will "name names" (so to speak).

Putting the "Class" in Class Action. Also, the "Ligitious and Passive-Aggressive Book-Peddler" in Professor. [IvyGate]