Prof. Mukund Vengalattore, physics.

Prof. Mukund Vengalattore, physics.

May 25, 2017

Judge Orders Cornell to Review Tenure Denial for ‘World-Class’ Professor

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A New York state judge ordered Cornell to reconsider the tenure application of Prof. Mukund Vengalattore, physics, last November. Six months later, that review hasn’t started yet, and the last Vengalattore has heard from the University is that he’ll be suspended for two weeks — without pay — starting June 1, according to Inside Higher Ed.

Vengalattore told Inside Higher Ed he does not know why he’s being suspended.

College of Arts and Sciences leadership “thoroughly disagree[s]” with Inside Higher Ed’s “narrative” but declined to comment further since “the matter is in active litigation and involves confidential personnel issues that we are not at liberty to disclose,” according to a statement from John Carberry, senior director of media relations.

The court order put an end to what Chemung County Judge Richard Rich called a “flawed, secretive, unfair” tenure review process carried out by the University against Vengalattore.

Alan Sash, Vengalattore’s attorney, told Inside Higher Ed that he’d never seen a court do so in his career.

The University first began reviewing the MIT-educated physics professor’s application for tenure in 2014.

Lauded as a “world-class” professor by a former Cornell colleague, who now teaches at CalTech, and having taught untenured at Cornell for six years, Vengalattore had reason to be optimistic when he applied for tenure. The first bump in Vengalattore’s track to tenure came when a graduate student reported “angry interactions” with Vengalattore to the department.

The graduate student, whom Vengalattore advised, drafted a letter alleging that Vengalattore had thrown an object at her, had denied her authorship credit in academic papers and had cultivated a bad atmosphere in his lab.

When Vengalattore learned of the student’s accusations, he asked the University, via the physics department, to investigate them, a request Dean Gretchen Ritter ’83 denied, according to court documents. The graduate student’s letter was put in Vengalattore’s tenure review “dossier” — the group of documents used by tenure review committees to decide whether to tenure Vengalattore or not.

Dean Gretchen Ritter ’83.

Dana Daniels / Sun Staff Photographer

Dean Gretchen Ritter ’83.

Even with the graduate student’s accusations, the physics department voted to recommend Vengalattore for tenure. Upon learning of the affirmative vote, the court said, the same graduate student made new accusations against Vengalattore: that the professor sexually assaulted her and that he had a romantic relationship with her.

Ritter, vested with accepting or rejecting the physics department’s recommendation, declined to adopt the department’s judgment due to the unresolved allegations against Vengalattore. The dean formed an ad hoc committee of faculty members to review the tenure application.

The committee said Vengalattore should not receive tenure, and Ritter accepted the committee’s recommendation. But the physics department asked that a consultant be brought in to reevaluate the “group dynamics” in Vengalattore’s lab. The physics department got its wish, and the consultant reported that the atmosphere in Vengalattore’s lab was good. Still, Ritter did not change her mind, sending a preliminary denial of tenure letter to the provost.

All the while, Vengalattore was never informed of the sexual assault charge against him. At no point was Vengalattore ever given a hearing where he could challenge either the sexual assault charge or the other misconduct charges, Judge Rich said.

The judge faulted the “secretive and non-inclusive nature of the [University’s] procedure,” saying it “violated [Vengalattore’s] due process rights to such an extent as to be arbitrary and capricious.”

“The University speaks of a level playing field but keeping the allegations secret from [Vengalattore] while having those allegations sour his tenure review creates anything but a level playing field,” the judge wrote.

Ritter formally denied Vengalattore tenure when another committee — the Faculty Advisor Committee on Tenure Appointments — voted against tenuring Vengalattore.

Day Hall, home to Cornell's central administration.

Omar Abdul-Rahim / Sun Staff Photographer

Day Hall, home to Cornell’s central administration.

Vengalattore finally learned about the sexual assault allegation against him when he appealed the decision — five months after the allegation was made, Judge Rich wrote.

Vengalattore’s discovery of the allegation prompted an investigation from the University’s Division of Workplace Policy and Labor Relations. It found “no evidence of sexual assault against the student,” Judge Rich wrote, but it did find that Vengalattore had been involved sexually with the graduate student, according to a document filed by the University in the case.

Vengalattore continues to dispute the finding that he had a relationship with the student and said the University prevented him from providing evidence that would back up his claim.

Prof. Kevin Clermont, law, a specialist on legal procedure who observed the Vengalattore case, told The Sun the University did not “allow [Vengalattore] to supplement the record or to challenge credibility,” one of many procedural flaws that, Clermont said, “raise[d] this case to the stratosphere of injustice.”

“The evidence was inconclusive, resting on allegations and denials. We cannot now know with certainty what happened between them, of course, but there was, after an incredibly exhaustive investigation, a telling absence of direct proof of a romantic relationship, such as e-mails, texts, or witnesses,” Clermont said of the WPLR’s decision.

Ritter accepted the WPLR’s decision, adding that the relationship between Vengalattore and the graduate student, whom the professor was advising at the time, violated University policy. Ritter also independently determined — by a preponderance of the evidence — that Vengalattore had lied to WPLR investigators, according to a letter the dean wrote to Vengalattore.

Ritter said she would impose “significant sanctions” if Vengalattore should be tenured.

Now, Ritter is “revisit[ing] her decision to delay the imposition of final sanctions with respect to the romantic relationship findings,” according to a letter the University wrote to Judge Rich. The University says Vengalattore “will be accorded all process he is due under Cornell’s procedures” regarding imposition of sanctions.

The University’s Tenure Appeals Committee, however, placed little weight on Vengalattore’s alleged relationship with the graduate student. It found that the graduate student’s accusations against Vengalattore “improperly tainted” the tenure review process, that the graduate student had a “conflict of interest” and that her letter should not have been included in the dossier, Judge Rich wrote. The committee reported its findings to Ritter.

But Ritter refused to adopt these findings, Judge Rich says, and she formed another ad hoc committee to review Vengalattore’s tenure application. The committee was unanimous: Professor Vengalattore should receive tenure.

Ritter was unmoved, court documents suggest. Despite an explicit recommendation from her newest ad hoc committee to the contrary, Ritter again denied tenure to Vengalattore, who had by this point been waiting two years for a decision.

A letter from Ritter revealed some of her reasons for denying Vengalattore tenure: his “romantic relationship” with the graduate student and his “unwillingness to accept responsibility for his actions,” according to Judge Rich.

Ritter, after redacting the document which found that Vengalattore’s lab atmosphere was good, gave the dossier to Provost Michael Kotlikoff for his final review on the tenuring decision. Judge Rich noted that Ritter excluded the positive report about Vengalattore’s lab but included an older, more negative report that some students claimed misrepresented their views.

Kotlikoff finally denied Vengalattore tenure. That’s when Vengalattore sued. Now, three years after Vengalattore’s tenure review was initiated, the professor’s position with the University continues to remain uncertain.

  • Brian Simmons

    AMO is a field where most of the “world class” experimentalists have either a Science or a Nature result. Looking at his publication record from 2014, his non-theory papers were a PRA and a PRL. Perhaps if he had spent less time sleeping with his students and more time publishing, his position at the University would be less uncertain.

    • Dissappointed at Cornell

      If you talk to any of his students (and I have) you will realize that he spends barely any time sleeping!
      And fifteen of his AMO peers, including several Nobel laureates, highly recommended tenure – best leave his scientific evaluation to experts, yes?

    • Minwoo Jung

      Please write AFTER fully reading the article.

    • Steven Smirnoff

      Perhaps if he had spent less time dealing with unsubstantiated accusations for years on end….

  • Disappointed alum

    Another excellent article exposing the current Cornell administration for its flawed, secretive, and unfair practices!

  • Devilsinthedetails
  • WhatLeadership?

    “College of Arts and Sciences leadership “thoroughly disagree[s]” with Inside Higher Ed’s “narrative” ”

    This is Cornell’s PR feeding bs to the Sun.
    The Inside Higher Ed article is not constructing a “narrative”. It is copy-pasting from the court’s “Findings of fact”.

    Is the College of Arts and Sciences leadership (Dean?) now saying that the Court is lying?

    • CornellGrad

      In Ritter’s alternate reality world, everyone’s a liar except her … the Professor, the ad hoc committees, the court, the judge etc etc. And when she doesn’t like the facts, she just redacts them.

      btw, isn’t it actually illegal for Cornell to cover up such serious allegations? And if Cornell had any suspicion that the allegations might be true, why didn’t they just immediately conduct a proper investigation, hold a hearing and give the Professor a chance to defend himself? Let the facts speak for themselves.

    • Are the trustees awake?

      Ritter has ‘independently’ determined that the judge is a liar based on a ‘preponderance of evidence’. She is planning sanctions on the judge for his decision in the lawsuit. This is way beyond ‘drunk with power’ … she thinks she can rewrite facts based on her delusions.

      A grade faculty + (Vindictive students) x (F grade administrators) = Safety School.

      There is no way the Provost and other administrators are unaware of Ritter’s fraud. She just caused Cornell to lose a lawsuit and raise questions about Cornell’s entire tenure process. According to the inside higher ed article, the students filed a complaint with the OCR against Ritter. How much damage does a Dean have to cause before she is terminated?

  • Seong woo oh

    This is such a sad story unfolding in the physics department at Cornell University. I graduated in 2014 as a physics major. As someone who worked in Prof Vengalattore’s lab, I came to admire his professionalism and total dedication to his work in the lab. He struck me as someone who was entirely absorbed in his work. I always found it odd that his tenure evaluation didnt come to a swift conclusion; given the quality of his work and the admiration he was getting from undergraduates he taught and graduate students he mentored, it seemed like a no brainer for me that he needed to get tenured. How does the school just take accusations from someone with a serious conflict of interest at their face value and make a tenure decision is beyond me, especially given that theres basically no evidence of wrongdoings on his part whatsoever. Whatever happened to “innocent until proven guilty?” Ask anyone else in the lab who worked with prof vengalattore. There were many other women that worked in his lab and they will all agree that he treated them equally with zero shady intentions. He is someone i mention first when i get asked who i admire the most. And to those who question what he has done in the past 2 years, the school tried to sabotage his lab at every turn and the school failed to provide an environment conducive to doing work. Given the school’s excellent work of undermining prof vengalattore’s performence, i would say hes done rather well. I dont know what the school’s intention is. Unless its goal is to keep the physics department from recruiting exceptional scholars such as prof vengalattore to keep it mediocre, i dont know what else.. This explains why the physics department has been going downhill compared to the top institutions that cornell once called its peers :/ i actually care about my cornell’s physics since i got my degree from it and i hope cornell comes to its senses and do what’s right retroactively, albeit very late.

  • Angry Alum

    Enough of these kangaroo courts and path of least resistance administrators! If the guy is guilty then fine, but you can’t just take baseless accusations as fact and go destroy his career and not even let him defend himself. Do they fail to recognize that the student is just as incentivized to falsely accuse him as he would be to deny guilt? Roughly half the time or more when these cases actually get due process we end up seeing irrefutable evidence of the man’s innocence. Please rejoin civilized society academia.

  • Professor at Vengalattores Department

    The sanctions slated to begin June 1 are a textbook case of retaliation.
    Or is it a coincidence that Ritter “revisited” her decision 16 (sixteen) months too late, just after Vengalattore won a lawsuit against her?

    Moreover, does anyone see conflict of interests here? Should we even be allowing Ritter to have any say anymore regarding Vengalattore?

  • CW

    As a female student who has worked in Dr. Vengalattore’s lab, I can say with certainty that I was never treated with anything less than complete professionalism and a genuine interest in my progress as a student and a researcher. Dr. Vengalattore is a researcher who is extremely hardworking and dedicated to not only his scientific pursuits but to the education and well-being of the graduate students and undergraduates in his group. Last summer I witnessed first hand Cornell attempting to bar him and his students from the lab and trying to manipulate his students into leaving his group. Through all of this, Dr. Vengalattore’s aim was clearly to shield his students from the effects of this debacle as much as possible so that we could continue to work in a normal environment. Besides being an excellent supervisor to his students, Dr. Vengalattore is a tremendous scientist who has done his best not to be stifled by Cornell’s continued actions against him. I can’t wait to see what kind of research he produces when this weight has been removed from his shoulders and he can focus on doing what he does best.

  • Miransky

    Prof. Kevin Clermont—top drawer! I don’t know why, before getting mired in the muck of bad procedure, malice, and retaliation, those charged with granting or denying tenure do not seek legal advice before problems pile up. There are the estimable resources of the law school. There is the University Counsel’s office. The dean thinks she can do whatever she wants in whatever dubious manner she wants, and is surprised when a judge calls her on it.

  • Yogesh Patil

    As one of Prof. Vengalattore’s graduate students, I can say through firsthand experience that the picture of Mukund that Ritter and Cornell have tried to paint is in complete contradiction to what I (and more than 15 others in our labs) have ever experienced. Mukund is an incredibly supportive advisor who treats all with equal respect and consideration, including all our undergraduates.

    The romantic relationship and assault allegation are the latest gimmicks of a smear campaign solicited against Mukund by career administrators who are trying to deflect attention from their own violations of university policies and US laws. The then current students were not told about the positive tenure vote in September 2014, but a few days after the positive vote, the Chair of the Physics Department seemingly called an ex student, following which this ex student made these accusations, which Ritter and Cornell then promptly buried under the carpet for almost six months without even telling him?! Completely shady, and in further violation of Cornell’s own policies and other US laws.

    Cornell and Ritter have tried really really hard to dig up any dirt whatsoever on Mukund to force him into leaving Cornell – that is as plain as the day. Except that their plans failed miserably – they couldn’t find any dirt on him. And now Cornell seems to have dug itself into such a deep hole that it seemingly cannot afford to own up to its “mistakes”.

    Stop harassing us and let us do what we came here to do – Physics. Leave us alone you bullies!

  • Airlia

    As a female student who worked with Professor Vengalattore continuously for four years, I can also confidently say that he has only ever shown me the utmost respect. I graduated in 2015 as a physics and math major and stayed at Cornell for one additional year to continue working in Professor Vengalattore’s lab. I define my Cornell experience by my time in the lab as a direct result of his phenomenal scientific and advising abilities. I could not possibly overstate the positive impact Professor Vengalattore has had on my experience as a scientist and it is a shame that Cornell, by attempting to destroy him, is not allowing other students to receive the same benefits.

    At this point it looks like Cornell is trying to make a bad name for itself by how ridiculously it is continuing to grossly mishandle what should have been a very clear case long ago. How can Cornell allow these administrators to pretend to remain blind to the facts after all this time?

  • SeniorResearcher@CornellPhysics

    As someone who works in the Cornell physics department, I would just like to point out that the concerned ex-student left Mukund’s group of her own accord when things weren’t working out between her and the rest of the group, including Mukund.

    A few months after she left, when Mukund finally started to get results on the experiment he was building, it is common knowledge that she begged him to allow her to rejoin the group! By then Mukund clearly had had enough with this student and refused.

    I cannot comment on the so-called ‘angry interactions’ in the lab, but how does that square with her expressed intent to rejoin the group, exactly just after it started producing results? It looks like this student took this rejection to heart and went on a personal vendetta to wreck any chance that Mukund would get tenure. The allegations she made are extremely serious and have the power to tarnish reputations irreparably, to the point that no one would ever want to give a second look at a person accused of them. A lot of us faculty, post-docs and even senior graduate students, are furious at how brazenly the student tried to smear Mukund with these accusations. Honestly, we’re not too surprised that even a biased University investigation could not find a single shred of evidence in support of those allegations!

    Mukund has worked extremely hard and quietly to build up amazing scientific infrastructure at Cornell. His students, whom I interact with regularly, have only positive things to say about him. His undergrad students routinely sweep the department honors and a lot of them (both male and female) have gone on to pursue research careers at top-tier schools such as Princeton, MIT, Caltech and Harvard.

    I don’t believe for a second that any of this is consistent with the “narrative” that the University has been pushing for all these years.

    Mukund has been wronged by the University and by Gretchen Ritter personally. She HAS to go and the university must make adequate reparations to Mukund and his students.

  • AngryGrad

    Agreed Ritter has to go!
    Why would I want my University’s name dragged down the drain because of the actions of a “Dean” of all the people. I want my degree to have some value to it when I graduate.

  • ConcernedPhysicist

    Ritter’s actions are disgusting. As an atomic physicist, I’ve long admired Mukund’s work and the way he has established such a strong group with multiple experiments (not an easy task, believe me!) – all this despite the fact that Cornell physics has clearly shown no interest in expanding in cold atom physics or supporting his work. I run into his students at conferences and their presentations are always well worth attending. I had no idea this was going on in the background and now, I am even more amazed at how much he has accomplished.

    Also, what were his colleagues in the physics department doing all this time? Don’t they realize that any future tenure review conducted by the Cornell physics department or Ritter has no meaning? Don’t they realize that the Cornell physics department has lost all credibility at this point, and no prospective candidate will want anything to do with this department? What action did the department take against this student for her brazen lies, and why did they make it so easy for her to inflict such life long damage to Mukund?

    Ritter should have been dismissed a long time ago, but the physics department should be subject to an inquiry and action as well.

  • AngryPhysicsAlum

    This makes no sense! I had an office on the same floor as Prof. Vengalattore, and he was far and away the hardest working professor in the entire department – working in his office well past midnight on most days. When he wasn’t in his office, he was running experiments by himself in his labs in the basement. Everyone knew that he wasn’t getting the students he deserved and was making do mostly with undergraduates. We also knew the student in question and her penchant for exaggeration, but I never thought she would take it this far.

    Also, I can’t help but note that another graduate student (Asian descent) in Physics was summarily dismissed from the Ph.D program for making false allegations against a fellow graduate student (caucasian). I guess for people like Ritter, the calculus is very different when a blonde, white female student makes false allegations against a brown person? Does the provost intend to wake up at some point and kick Ritter out of campus? or is he waiting for the law enforcement agencies to do it on his behalf? Physics (and Cornell) owes Prof. Vengalattore an apology and reparations ASAP!

  • Alex Wang

    Having worked with Professor Vengalattore for two years including both summers, it is clear to me that he is a wonderful adviser and is a person of the highest integrity. He has said that he would forgive Ritter and the Cornell administration for their egregious mistake if only they would admit their mistakes (which I highly doubt were unintentional) and right their wrongs by giving him his (well-deserved) tenure. But clearly the university has no intentions of doing so.

    Can you imagine being persecuted for so many years but still being willing to forgive your persecutors? Think of the hundreds if not thousands of hours that the man has wasted trying to fight for himself. The hours that could have gone toward productive research that would not just advance his own scientific reputation, but also that of Cornell. The hours that could have been spent advising more students and helping them reach their full potential as researchers. The hours that could even have been spent on a well-deserved rest. His office lights are always on until past midnight even on the weekends, hours later than those of his world-class colleagues.

    His incredible ability to continue to perform cutting-edge research with undergraduate students, while his potential graduate students were kept from him by Cornell, speaks volumes about his research ability, advising ability, and resilience to adversity.

    It greatly distresses me that Cornell would carry out these unscrupulous retaliations just to save themselves. This is a classic example of an imbalance of power and the abuse of that power. If this case were to be brought to justice, heads will roll. Ritter and her accomplices will no longer be occupying those comfortable cushions of power and might even be criminally prosecuted. They also wouldn’t be able to find employment anywhere else after such an incident. But if these people had a morsel of humanity and morality, they would make amends for their wrongdoings. Justice must be served, and Professor Vengalattore deserves tenure and compensation for this enormity.

  • DueProcessMatters

    As I understand it, Ritter denied the Professor’s request for an investigation, and then removed information from his dossier that proved that the student’s claims were false. Then, she ‘independently’ determined that the Professor was lying, denied his right to a hearing, ignored multiple committees that recommended tenure and then penalized him for ‘not taking responsibility’ for allegations that most likely were not true. Did she really expect her antics to hold up in court?

    Also, if Ritter thinks this is all perfectly ok, what if another student ‘secretly’ accuses her of assault tomorrow? Will Ritter ‘accept responsibility for her actions’ and voluntarily spend some time in jail? Hopefully, Arts and Sciences will soon get a new Dean – one who understands how facts, evidence and due process work.

  • Ritter Needs to Resign

    This sounds like a witch-hunt. Based on what is reported here, the Dean denied his tenure due to her ‘concerns’ over the unresolved allegations (that he didn’t even know about) and then bent over backwards to ensure that the allegations remained unresolved – no investigation, no hearing and no resolution. If multiple committees and his own department have already recommended tenure, isn’t that already a clear sign that this student’s allegations are not true? And how in hell can she penalize him for ‘not taking responsibility’ for unsubstantiated allegations for which there is no evidence and no hearing? Some Soviet-era gulag administrators are probably going, ‘why didn’t we think of that?’.

    And the Professor has been trying to fight these allegations and clear his name since 2014!!! In the meantime, Ritter’s been busy ‘redacting’ exonerating information from his dossier. What kind of a Dean removes factual and relevant information from a tenure dossier? Isn’t that the same as deliberate fraud and misrepresentation? There is an opinion piece in this same issue of the Sun by Cornell FGSS faculty saying that Ritter is misrepresenting facts/statistics in regard to their program. Ritter seems to be a person who peddles ‘alternate facts’ without shame.

    Finally, I don’t understand how the Dean has the power to deny the Professor’s right to a hearing on such serious allegations – unless she already knows that a hearing would only prove the Professor right, and call into question her obvious prejudice and inability to assess facts. Why don’t the rest of the faculty and university administration speak out? Are they spooked that Ritter is going to try and destroy their careers with similar false allegations as well?

    Isn’t it time for the department of justice to intervene? I really hope this Professor makes a lot of money out of this fiasco, clears his name and leaves for an honest University with his head held high. And I really hope everyone realizes that Ritter does not belong in higher ed except in a janitorial capacity.

    • concerned janitor

      Take that back. Don’t insult the janitors

  • OutragedAtCornellPhysics

    Cornell’s response to this article – “The leadership of the College of Arts and Sciences and the University Administration thoroughly disagree with the narrative and many of the details of this situation as they have been reported in the media and with the overt and, we believe, unfair attacks that have been made against the dean of that college…”

    WTF??? Ritter has persecuted this professor for three years based on false allegations, inflicted permanent damage to his reputation and career by refusing to acknowledge facts, denied him his basic rights, deliberately removed information that demonstrates his innocence and tried to get rid of him entirely for reasons of political convenience. By now, the physics department disagrees with her, multiple Cornell committees disagree with her, the State Supreme Court disagrees with her, and it looks like the Office of Civil Rights disagrees with her. And now, she is the one whining about ‘unfair attacks’? Open your effing eyes Ritter!!

    • PhysicsProfessor

      Ritter’s whining about “unfair attacks” reminds me of Trumps whining about the press…..all so so very unfair. Forget that Vengalattore’s career has been destroyed by slander, lets take a moment to sympathize with the struggle of the person in power: the Dean.

      Without diverging into politics to deep, from my perspective, I see a lot of similarities between Cornell’s response and our current situation with fake news. Regardless of the reality, regardless of multiple findings by independent committees, a thorough investigation by a judge, and now an investigation by the Dept of Ed Office of Civil Rights, Cornell continues to insist they have pursued a fair path. The Dean insists Vengalattore is guilty of a improper one year relationship with his student, yet not a single text or email can be found which demonstrates this personal relationship. The Dean insists that Mukund is not productive enough for tenure, yet he is widely supported by external colleagues, some who have earned the Nobel prize in his area. Cornell’s position is simply fake news.

      • PhysicsGrad

        Couldn’t agree more! The real frauds and racists are people like Ritter who hide behind the ‘liberal’ cloak and feel they are not accountable to anybody. They probably didn’t think their actions would become public because after all, faculty or students don’t have the resources to mount a legal challenge against a school like Cornell – no matter how valid their cause.

        As with all fake news, the proper response is to give all the facts a proper airing and not let these scumbags hide behind ‘confidentiality’ or ‘under active litigation’. How is it under ‘active litigation’? The Court returned a verdict six months ago.

        And like Trump, Ritter seems to operate under the presumption that there are one set of standards for her and another for ‘lowly’ faculty of color. Despite absolutely no evidence and no proper hearing, she made up a claim that the professor was lying and demanded that he ‘take responsibility’. But when a court has determined based on actual documented facts that she committed fraud and violated his rights, what is her response? Retaliate against the professor and in the process, break a few more laws. Despite repeated slander and false accusations over the past three years, the Professor continues to work hard, mentor his students and quietly demonstrate how farcical Cornell’s claims are. In contrast, a couple of articles about the Court’s established findings (that Cornell’s lawyers themselves never disputed), and there goes Ritter – snivelling about how unfair these ‘attacks’ are.

  • What has the physics department been doing?

    Thanks to the Cornell Daily Sun! As an academic who has been following this matter for the past several years, I am really glad people are beginning to take notice of this shocking injustice. I am also very glad that Mukund has decided he is not going to be pushed around by these people any longer and is exposing their shameful conduct.

    Alongside the despicable manner in which the CAS Dean has behaved, it is also important to look closer into the actions of senior physics faculty who have tried to prop up this ex-student’s false claims. They have done so in full knowledge that she has no credibility, in full knowledge that she has been out to sabotage Mukund’s career, and in their belief that they could slander Mukund while hiding behind the ‘confidentiality’ of the tenure review without telling him about these ‘secret claims’ or giving him the opportunity to defend himself with the real facts of the matter. A lot of people have (correctly) wondered why all these false claims only came up behind the closed doors of the tenure review and why there still hasn’t been a hearing. I hope the OCR looks very closely at the criminal goings-on in Cornell physics – especially the actions of the dept chair, the LASSP director and the DGS. The Cornell physics leadership has been begging for a fumigation and a public shaming for many years now.

  • SC

    This charade has to end. Not implementing the court’s verdict is simply inexcusable. This is and has been an incredible waste of time/life not only for Mukund, but also for the rest of the group (which has heroically soldiered on despite all that his been thrown at them), and for the rest of Cornell physics. I was a graduate student in his group for 5 years, and was around during the period in question. I found even the student’s original allegations to be surprising to say the least. The subsequent embellishments and shifting narratives are quite ludicrous.

    Mukund is one of the most brilliant, original, hard working and dedicated physicists I have known. He was as dedicated to his research as to his teaching, and always had time for his students, grad and undergrad alike. He inspired his students to aspire to the same standards he set for himself, and they became better for it. Undergraduates from the group are highly sought after, have won numerous awards, and have subsequently gone on to the best graduate programs in the country. I am very proud and thankful for having been a part of this group, which is the main reason that I am still in physics today.

    Irrespective of her motives, the dean has made the mistake of taking the law into her own hands. It’s better to stop now rather than never. Let Mukund and the group do what what they do best without constant harassment.

  • Disinterested Grad Student

    The astroturfing in these comments is ridiculous! The same phrases over and over again, nearly identical pseudonyms.. I’d guess one or two of the grad students who will be screwed if their lab shuts down are enthusiastically supporting their mentor….

    • Another generic pseudonym

      Have you even read the article? I guess the judge who delivered the verdict that Ritter behaved in an arbitrary and capricious manner and violated the professor’s rights is also ‘enthusiastically’ supporting the professor? And the judge who ordered the restraining order agaist Ritter would also be ‘screwed’ if the labs are shut down? And the Office of Civil Rights is also performing experiments in his labs? And the multiple university committees who recommended tenure are ‘supporting their mentor’?

    • Disinterested but informed …

      Here are some basic facts … that even a ‘disinterested’ Cornell graduate student should be able to appreciate, and
      perhaps understand why faculty are so concerned about this (and why everyone should be similarly concerned). Cornell CAS has about 600 faculty and Ritter probably ‘judges’ about 30-50 tenure cases each year. Each of these faculty have an average startup package of about $1 million dollars (little more for the sciences and less for the arts). These faculty devote six years of their lives to preparing for tenure. Add to this their students, post-docs and collaborators and you are talking about hundreds of careers. Add to this their federal grants, infrastructure, facilities etc. and you are looking at a liability of hundreds of millions of dollars – all at the whim and fancy of a Dean who clearly is unwilling to consider facts or expert peer opinions, who places political convenience and her vivid imagination above all else, who apparently sees no issues with manipulating University policies or violating constitutional rights as she ‘independently’ deems fit, and who has just been found guilty by a State Supreme Court of fraud, misrepresentation and capricious conduct.

      Add to this the ongoing OCR investigation into a complaint by the students into possible discrimination, harassment and retaliation by the same Dean against junior faculty and their students. Add to this the lasting damage to Cornell’s reputation, and the potential impact on donors and federal funds. Do you still believe this is all about ‘one or two graduate students’ who want to run a few more experiments in their labs? Cornell has just
      gone down in history as probably the first top tier university to have a tenure decision reversed by
      a Court due to a Dean’s fraudulent and capricious conduct. Congratulations!

      There is a difference between ‘disinterested’ and just plain ignorant.

  • BN

    The Dean is digging deeper while she is already in a hole.
    Here is a dedicated Scientist who is giving it all to the cause of research, the students and the school.
    Instead of encouraging, rewarding and celebrating, a few malicious elements have taken it upon themselves to harass and persecute.
    It is high time authorities with courage and conscience come forward and end the ill treatment of the faculty, provide justice and restore the glory of the great school.

  • A Faculty from another University

    It is mind-boggling to note that Cornell does not have an open tenure review process. At our university, it is mandatory to share all letters/reviews introduced into the tenure dossier at every step with the faculty undergoing review. Once the tenure process starts, neither party can add materials without the consent or knowledge of the other one.

    • Cornell Professor

      That would have solved many problems. In this case, it seems like Vengalattore was not told of the allegations in the student’s letter – and obviously could not defend himself against secret allegations. Then, when the department recommended tenure, the same student then leveled more allegations against him which were also inserted into the dossier without his knowledge. To cap it off, Ritter was redacting evidence and information showing these allegations to be false. So, false accusations keep being added to the dossier while factual and positive information kept getting ‘redacted’. By now, there is essentially universal consensus that this tenure review was a shit-show from start to finish. By refusing to acknowledge this or take corrective measures, I think both Cornell Physics and Cornell CAS are losing credibility with each passing day.

  • A Faculty from another University

    Per Title IX policy, anybody who hears of a sexual violation incident (factual or hearsay) must immediately contact the Title IX coordinator. Was this allegation brought to the attention of the Title IX coordinator (or an office that handles such matters) by any individual who had the knowledge of this allegation? A Title IX office is equipped to conduct such an inquiry in a confidential manner. Why was this inquiry not conducted much earlier, considering that the alleged incident took place more than a year prior to the mandatory tenure review date?