Prof. Mukund Vengalattore, physics.

Prof. Mukund Vengalattore, physics.

June 13, 2017

Vengalattore v. Cornell: A Timeline

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Nearly a decade ago — long before he claimed Cornell exerted bias in not admitting students to his lab, unfairly denied him tenure and continues to violate a court order by not restarting the tenure review process — Prof. Mukund Vengalattore, physics, was seen by colleagues as a vital hire for the University.

The professor now claims Cornell has consistently been wronging him since 2012, when he first applied for tenure. The University’s wrongdoing, the professor alleges, was at its peak during his tenure review, which a judge said violated Vengalattore’s due process rights “to such an extent as to be arbitrary and capricious.” The University must restart the tenure review, Chemung County Court Justice Richard Rich ruled in November 2016.

The University has twice tried to remove Vengalattore from campus — first in June 2016, and now on Friday, when it imposed an unpaid, two-week suspension on the professor. Vengalattore asked a Schuyler County Court to hold the University in contempt last week because, he said, Cornell has yet to start its new, court-ordered tenure review.

* * *

June 2008

  • Cornell hires Vengalattore, then a postdoctoral researcher at Berkeley, as a tenure-track assistant-professor. Vengalattore took the offer, padded with a $2 million startup package, an $80,000 nine-month salary, and a guaranteed minimum of 526 square feet of lab space.
  • Vengalattore was an important hire for the University, his former colleague Prof. Keith Schwab, now at Caltech, told The Sun. For nearly five years before hiring Vengalattore, Schwab said, Cornell had been unsuccessfully searching for a specialist in Vengalattore’s field —  atomic, molecular, and orbital physics.
  • “We did everything we could to bring Mukund to Cornell,” Schwab said.

December 2011

  • Twenty members of the physics faculty vote unanimously to reappoint Vengalattore to his assistant professorship. The department’s chair at the time, Prof. Ritchie Patterson, called Vengalattore “a researcher of high caliber with great potential,” stressing that Vengalattore’s accomplishments were “especially impressive given that you are the only researcher at Cornell in this exciting new and growing area.”
  • From late 2009 to 2011, Vengalattore had been identifying promising AMO Ph.D. applicants and asking the department to consider admitting those students. The effort was largely unsuccessful, he now says.

August – December 2012

  • A graduate student working in Vengalattore’s labs —  later identified in court documents as LA — leaves the labs, saying she is having challenges with the work and is “beginning to feel that I can do nothing right.”
  • LA’s departure seems amicable at first: the two exchanged texts, LA wished Vengalattore a happy birthday and, two weeks after her departure, the student asked to rejoin the lab.
  • But, shortly after, LA complained to Prof. Lawrence Gibbons, physics, of “angry interactions” with Vengalattore and a poor lab atmosphere. She alleged several times over the next two years that Vengalattore either threw or slid a power supply at her head or her feet.
  • The department chair at the time, Prof. Jeevak Parpia, is informed of the allegation. Vengalattore is not. The allegation is not investigated.

April 15, 2013

  • LA reaches out to Prof. Swati Singh, physics, Williams College, who was a collaborator with Vengalattore, telling her that, “if I have my way, [Vengalattore] will have a hard time getting tenure,” according to a letter Singh later writes in support of Vengalattore.

2014

  • Vengalattore, in his fifth year of being an assistant professor, applies for tenure.
  • LA, who later said she was sexually assaulted by Vengalattore, asks a professor in February 2014 to warn students not to join Vengalattore’s research group. The professor declines to do so.
  • The department still has not told Vengalattore about the allegations, despite multiple students informing department leadership about the allegations, concerns about their basis and the effects on the student and Vengalatorre’s lab.
  • LA submits a letter that would become one of the documents included in the physics department’s review of tenure for Vengalattore. Several allegations, including the power supply allegation, appear in the letter. It is a marked contrast from a 2011 letter LA wrote praising the professor for encouraging students “to take any opportunities to talk about our research” and advocating that his assistant professorship be renewed.
  • Vengalattore learns from his own graduate students that LA’s allegations are spreading through the department, but he doesn’t know what the specific allegations are, he says.
  • Vengalattore tells senior professors he will go to the University with a complaint that the department has not investigated the allegations. The professors ask Vengalattore to keep his complaints within the department, which Vengalattore, promised an investigation from the department, agrees to do.
  • Parpia, the department chair, asks Arts and Sciences Dean Gretchen Ritter ’83 for an extension on the department’s review of Vengalattore so it can investigate LA’s allegations. It appears the request was not granted.
  • The physics department enlists one of its professors — Prof. Lawrence Gibbons — to review Vengalattore’s lab culture. Gibbons’ report, based on interviews of five students over about 10 days, reflects the lab negatively. The report goes in Vengalattore’s tenure dossier — the files reviewed by those deciding if he will be granted tenure.
    • Two of Vengalattore’s graduate students later filed an official grievance with the Graduate School alleging the Gibbons report contained “blatant fabrications.”
  • Seeing Gibbons’ findings, released a week before the department’s tenure vote, Vengalattore emails Parpia to ask if the department had commenced its promised investigation into LA’s power supply allegation. “I do not have the means to conduct an in depth ‘investigation,’” Parpia responded.
  • Vengalattore is receiving support from some of his former colleagues. Singh — the Williams College professor in whom LA confided that if she had her way, Vengalattore would have a hard time receiving tenure — says she finds LA’s claims “unbelievable, and l hope so does almost every other person who has worked with [Vengalattore],” according to a letter that she wrote to the department in July 2014.
  • In September 2014, the physics department votes to recommend Vengalattore for tenure and to send their recommendation to Ritter. The true count of the vote is disputed, but it is clear that the vote was far from unanimous, and estimates from the department chair show Vengalattore prevailing by a five-vote margin out of nearly 30 votes.
  • Parpia calls LA and tells her about the department’s vote, according to LA.
  • Two days after learning of the vote, LA says Vengalattore had previously sexually assaulted her, after which a year-long secret, sexual relationship allegedly followed.

Although the University learned of LA’s sexual assault allegation in September 2014, it did not inform Vengalattore of the allegation until March 2015, possibly counter to University policy providing that “[w]hen [a] complaint from any source is made against a … professor … which might lead to his or her dismissal or to suspension for the period of one semester or more, the dean of his or her college … shall inform the faculty member of the complaint.”

Cornell said in court that Vengalattore was not at that point subject to the possibility of dismissal or suspension, so the policy did not apply.

  • Then-Director of University Division of Workplace Policy and Labor Relations, Alan Mittman, is asked for advice by a physics professor on handling the allegation, but no investigation begins. It is unclear why an investigation did not start immediately.
  • LA’s negative tenure review letter remains in the dossier. A committee later finds that LA’s letter should not have been in Vengalattore’s tenure file because the sexual assault allegation against Vengalattore created a conflict of interest.
  • Ritter receives the physics department’s recommendation for tenure. She forms a committee to review the documents, still including LA’s letter.
  • The committee recommends against tenure, and Ritter affirms its decision, citing two “interconnected” reasons: “Dr. Vengalattore has not adequately demonstrated his scientific productivity in key areas. Second, he has failed in his role as an effective mentor for his PhD students,” Ritter wrote in the letter.
  • Vengalattore wrote a long response to Ritter’s denial. The professor defended his group’s and his own physics chops, saying that his papers averaged 85 citations each — “almost double that of recently tenured faculty in the Cornell” — and that his students earned 21 awards in five years.
  • The physics department commissions a Cornell consultant to”determine the current state of the human dynamics (climate) in the Vengalattore Lab among graduate and undergraduate students.”
  • Over 50 days, Pamela G. Strausser M.S. ’85, a senior HR consultant, interviews 26 people associated with Vengalattore’s lab.
  • “The excitement of students on all levels is palpable,” Strausser found in her report. “The lab is described with a high degree of pride by students who talk about their roles, large and small.”
  • After the Strausser report came out, Vengalattore’s colleagues tell him his tenure-related problems are solved, Vengalattore claims. “Now you can rest,” one of Vengalattore’s colleagues allegedly told him.
  • Parpia asks Ritter to reconsider her initial denial of tenure in light of the Strausser report.
  • “Strausser’s findings that [Vengalattore]’s laboratory is now free of the sort of corrosive atmosphere described in some of the student letters is significant,” Parpia said. “It is aligned with [Vengalattore]’s point of view that there was a time in 2011-2013 where interactions with [LA] and [another student] created a less than ideal atmosphere.”
  • Ritter, at this point, was aware of LA’s sexual assault and sexual relationship claims, court documents suggest. Vengalattore was not.
  • Ritter denies Vengalattore’s and Parpia’s request to approve the professor for tenure. She doubted “the strength and depth of the reforms that have occurred” and “the value of the additional evidence” in the Strausser report, and she expressed concern about the relatively narrow vote in Vengalattore’s favor among the physics faculty.
    • Ritter said Vengalattore was likely “on his best behavior” during the review and the interviewed students had motive to lie since “their academic futures depend, at least in part, on the support and goodwill of their faculty supervisor.” However Strausser did not attribute comments to individual students.

2015

  • The tenure review dossier is sent  to then-Provost Harry Katz.
  • There has not yet been a hearing on any of LA’s allegations — sexual assault, relationship or power supply throwing incident.
  • Katz forwards Vengalattore’s file to the Faculty Advisory Committee on Tenure Appointments. FACTA, by a 10-2 vote, advises Katz to side with Ritter, saying the professor should not be tenured. To some on the committee, it is clear that LA’s allegations were impactful.
  • “A great deal of [FACTA’s] concern seems rooted in the charges of [LA],” wrote FACTA member Prof. Cynthia Farina, law, one of two FACTA members who voted for Vengalattore. “Several things in the file cast doubt on the charges, making it difficult to discern their true seriousness. Given that, it’s troubling that this issue exploded, so late in the tenure process, into a major factor in the negative outcome.”
  • Prof. Paulette Clancy, chemical and biomolecular engineering, who voted against Vengalattore, wrote, “Clearly the only students who are prepared to take the abuse [Vengalattore] dishes out are both men and they are both from the Indian sub-continent, where perhaps the culture between advisor and protege is different.” Clancy, perhaps prophetically, called Vengalattore “a lawsuit waiting to happen.”

Most FACTA members felt Ritter had come to her conclusion reasonably. Vengalattore maintains that FACTA was not given the Strausser report since the negative findings of the Gibbons report play a role in many members’ written decisions, which were obtained by The Sun.

  • Katz accepts FACTA’s decision and denies Vengalattore tenure.
  • Vengalattore appeals the denial of tenure to the dean of faculty.
  • Vengalattore discovers the allegations LA made in the letter, which did not include the sexual assault and relationship claims. By his telling, he still does not know about the sexual assault allegation, which is not in the student’s letter.
    • “The University speaks of a level playing field but keeping the allegations secret from Professor Vengalattore while having those allegations sour his tenure review creates anything but a level playing field and was arbitrary and capricious,” the judge in Vengalattore’s later court case wrote.
  • Two days after the appeal, Vengalattore learns Ritter has authorized the WPLR — the office that investigates disputes involving faculty members — to investigate his alleged year-long relationship with LA, which may have violated of the University’s faculty romance policy. This is when Vengalattore learns about the sexual assault allegation that had been made against him six months prior.
    • “Pursuant to University policy, the Professor was entitled to notice of the misconduct allegations and to a hearing concerning the allegations,” a judge later said.
  • WPLR investigators Mittman and Sarah Affel say they cannot investigate LA’s accusation of sexual assault, finding it time-barred under Cornell Policy 6.4

Prof. Kevin Clermont, law, an expert on legal procedure, said the WPLR investigation reached “the stratosphere of injustice” and that “Cornell followed no procedure at all” in handling the case.

  • Then-dean of faculty, Prof. Joseph Burns, decides that Vengalattore’s tenure appeal is not frivolous. Burns sends the appeal to a tenure Appeals Committee. The committee’s charge is to determine whether Vengalattore could establish the grounds for his appeal.
  • To establish the first ground of his appeal, Vengalattore sets out to show that the physics  department discriminated against Ph.D. applicants in AMO physics, the effect allegedly being to keep Vengalattore’s lab poorly staffed.
  • As part of his fact finding, Vengalattore asks Parpia to see the department’s graduate admissions documents, but Parpia, according to Vengalattore, told the professor the documents had been destroyed. Parpia did not respond to emailed questions.
  • The documents were in fact available, and upon Burns’s request, Vengalattore said, the Graduate School allowed the professor to review them.
  • Vengalattore sifts through the documents, spending seven hours over two days in a room where he, while supervised, was allowed to view computerized versions of the files.
  • Meanwhile, Vengalattore notices that the tenure Appeals Committee appears to know about the ongoing WPLR investigation. Vengalattore emails Affel saying the panel’s knowledge of the investigation “explicitly contradicts what I was told by you and Mittman, i.e. that this investigation was independent of the tenure appeals process.”
  • Burns responds to Vengalattore on Affel’s behalf: “I believe that neither myself nor my staff have told the appeals committee anything about another investigation, beyond perhaps its existence. We certainly have not revealed any details about that investigation, for we know none.”
    • But Ritter had emailed every member of the tenure appeals committee to inform them of LA’s complaints, “including an accusation that there had been an inappropriate sexual relationship between the two of them,” Ritter wrote. “Preliminary evidence indicates that these complaints are not frivolous.”
  • Vengalattore assembles his findings from the admissions documents in a report, which he turns over to the tenure appeals committee. The committee, at the time, is convinced: The findings “support[ed] [Vengalattore’s] claims of bias,” the committee wrote in a draft report.

Prof. Keith Schwab, physics, CalTech, who was on the committee that hired Vengalattore at Cornell in 2008, said the physics department’s alleged interference hobbled Vengalattore’s research potential.

“This means that Mukund gets graduate students who came to Cornell not intending to do [AMO] physics. And largely, this means another group rejected them. So they came to work with some other professors, those guys fired them, and then Mukund gets the scraps,” Schwab said. “So, here’s Mukund trying to do some of the most difficult experiments that human beings do with students who are not motivated and who have already been passed over.”

  • The tenure Appeals Committee, in a draft report, finds two of Vengalattore’s grounds for appeal have been met.
    • The committee says the physics department’s “perfunctory” effort to investigate LA’s claim that Vengalattore threw a power supply at her violated University ethics policy, establishing ground two of Vengalattore’s appeal, and “the letter from [LA] should have been removed from the tenure file when [LA] lodged additional charges against [Vengalattore],” establishing ground three of Vengalattore’s appeal.
    • “When [LA]’s allegation became a central issue in [Vengalattore] tenure case,” the committee said in a draft report, “the Physics Department still did not conduct a proper investigation. Failure to do so while leaving the letter in the tenure file infringed [Vengalattore]’s rights as a faculty member.”
  • The committee also says Parpia and Prof. Lawrence Gibbons, physics, misled Vengalattore when they told him they would investigate the power supply allegation.
  • In a meeting with Dean Jan Allen of the Graduate School to discuss grievances that relate to the tenure case, one of Vengalattore’s graduate students is told that by the dean that allegations can be tantamount to evidence: “If you come to me and tell me that somebody called you terrible names — racial and ethnic slurs — if they used name-calling and labelling, I would say, ‘the evidence is you were there and you were called those names.’ That’s the evidence,” Dean Allen said. “I wouldn’t say ‘you’ve got to produce a tape recording’ or ‘you’ve got to find graffiti that this person scratched on the wall.’” The Sun heard a recording of this conversation.
  • Ritter presents the findings of the WPLR investigation in a letter to Vengalattore. She agrees with WPLR investigators’ recommendation that Vengalattore had an inappropriate relationship with LA, though Ritter added that, in her view, there was not enough evidence to find Vengalattore guilty on the sexual assault charge.
    • “The WPLR report found no evidence of a sexual assault against the student,” the judge noted.
  • Ritter also finds Vengalattore guilty of lying: “Given the finding of an inappropriate relationship, I also find that in your denial of a sexual relationship you have lied to the investigators in this case,” Ritter wrote. “I intend to impose significant sanctions on you.”
    • Prof. Vengalattore denies any sort of romantic or sexual encounter with LA. Clermont — the law professor who is an expert on legal procedure — told The Sun that Ritter’s “finding of an inappropriate relationship” came “after an incredibly exhaustive investigation” that yielded “a telling absence of direct proof of a romantic relationship, such as e-mails, texts, or witnesses.”
  • Ritter also said she would “suspend the imposition of any sanctions pending the outcome of your tenure appeal.”
    • In court, the dean said she “implemented a number of sanctions immediately. In particular, I prohibited Professor Vengalattore from attending any professional conferences that [LA] planned to attend.”
    • Vengalattore ascribed an ulterior motive to Ritter’s initial claim of withholding of sanctions: By declining to charge him, the professor said, Ritter was preventing Vengalattore from having a hearing to present evidence and contest the charges. To this point, Vengalattore had not had a hearing on any of the charges levelled against him by LA, he claims.
    • A judge later said that, “If upon review, the Provost had brought charges in order to impose sanctions, Professor Vengalattore would have been entitled to a hearing.”
  • Ritter, University counsel and the physics department challenge the tenure appeals committee’s draft report. As part of the challenge, the University submits a full response to the draft report.
  • After Vengalattore requests the University’s response be given to him so he can respond to it, the following exchange occurred, per a recording obtained by The Sun.

CHAIR: I just want to let you know that I did ask the [response] of the dean and the department and the University counsel be sent to you, and that request was denied. Okay? So, I feel constrained in what we can tell you about specific things that are in them, because we were instructed not to share those documents with you.

VENGALATTORE: Can I ask the reason why?

CHAIR: Uh, no, you can’t. Well, you can ask the question, but there’s no answer. I’m simply reporting to you what I was told, and I did not pursue the matter because I did not think it appropriate for me to pursue the matter.

  • After the University’s challenge, the committee rolls back its initial finding of admissions bias, saying Vengalattore bore some of the responsibility by not successfully hiring any postdoctoral students and saying the department’s treatment of Vengalattore’s prospective applicants was not “contrary to [the department’s] normal practice.” It also  found that LA’s allegations should not have been in the dossier due to the conflict of interest generated by the sexual assault allegation.

2016

  • Charged with amending the tenure review to comply with the committee’s findings, Ritter forms a new ad hoc committee to consider an appropriately redacted tenure file, one where LA’s allegations are not included.
  • The committee, which an Arts and Sciences spokesperson said probably had two or three members, is unanimous: Vengalattore should receive tenure.
  • Ritter overrules the committee, declining to tenure Vengalattore.
    • In her letter explaining her third denial of tenure, Ritter says Vengalattore’s failure to disclose the alleged romantic relationship with LA, which Vengalattore had denied from the start, is an “unethical violation of [U]niversity policy.”
    • Ritter also cites in the same letter a disputed allegation from LA that Vengalattore withheld authorship credit from her, an accusation which WPLR investigators called “an exaggeration.”
  • The tenure appeals committee again reviews Ritter’s decision. Its verdict: “serious deficiencies” still remain. The committee elects to convene, as it is authorized to do under Cornell policy, “a panel of professionally qualified and not previously involved expert scholars” to review Vengalattore’s tenure application anew.
  • Ritter argues in a letter to the dean of faculty, associate University Counsel Wendy Tarlow J.D. ’89 and deputy provost that “the appeals procedures do not adequately account for the complexity of this particular case” and saying the committee’s call for an independent panel “falls outside of the rules of the appeals process.”
    • Five months earlier, Ritter had received an email from Deputy Provost John Siciliano saying, “[I]f you disagree on the [committee’s] recommendations … the committee appears to have the power under the rules to order an independent review.”
  • The decision is left to the dean of faculty, Prof. Michael Fontaine, who has to decide whether to convene the independent panel recommended by the committee or assent to Ritter’s request for an “amended process.”
  • Fontaine sides with Ritter, then passes misleading information onto Vengalattore. “The appeals committee found no further issues with Dean Ritter’s determinations based on the redacted file,” he wrote in a letter to Vengalattore, when in fact the Appeals Committee had said “the case still has serious deficiencies following the actions of Dean Ritter.”
    • Fontaine was right in saying that the Appeals Committee did not identify further issues with Dean Ritter’s determinations specifically, but he did conceal the committee’s true holding both that “serious deficiencies” remained in the process as a whole and that the professor’s case should go to an independent panel. Thus, Vengalattore was led to believe his appeal had been rejected when in fact it had been upheld. Fontaine did not respond to questions from The Sun sent.
  • One member of the Appeals Committee, Prof. Linda Nicholson, later said the committee had upheld Vengalattore’s appeal and had assumed Fontaine would launch an independent panel. “He declined,” Nicholson wrote.
  • Vengalattore asks Fontaine to see Kotlikoff before the provost makes the final decision on tenure — which was Vengalattore’s “right” under University policy, a judge later said.
  • Fontaine denies the request.
  • Ritter prepares a redacted dossier and sends it to Provost Kotlikoff for an additional review. She keeps out the positive Strausser report but includes the negative Gibbons report.
  • Kotlikoff, in May 2016, denies Vengalattore tenure in what he likely thought was the last word on the issue.
  • Kotlikoff writes in his decision that he had “not seen, discussed, or considered any information that was redacted or any material relating to the appeal other than the request to conduct this review,” but the provost had been copied on one email and one letter concerning information that was supposed to be barred from the review, documents obtained by The Sun show.
    • Kotlikoff, in a later court affidavit, says only that he had not “considered any information beyond” the redacted dossier.
  • Now having issued a final decision to deny him tenure, Cornell tells Vengalattore his last day of employment will be June 30, 2016. Vengalattore’s graduate students are told via email “[t]he laboratory space cannot be occupied by Professor Vengalattore, his graduate students, or undergraduate students past the terminal date of his appointment.”
    • Some of these graduate students had been partners with Vengalattore for five or six years, situating their Ph.D. research in the professor’s lab, filled with millions of dollars worth of equipment. Several of these graduate students came to Vengalattore’s strong defense in interactions with administrators.

June 2016

  • A judge issues a temporary restraining order against the University and Ritter, preventing them from, among other things, terminating Vengalattore’s employment or “denying, interfering, impeding, or restricting” the professor or his “students, assistants, or associates from accessing or using” the labs.

November 2016

  • A judge vacates the University’s entire tenure review of Vengalattore, ordering it to start from scratch.

April 2017

  • The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights opens an investigation into whether the University retaliated against some of Vengalattore’s graduate students due to “race, color, national origin, and sex” by “denying [them] the opportunity to give talks within the University’s physics department from academic year 2015-2016 to the present” and by “telling graduate students not to join [Vengalattore]’s research laboratory from academic year 2014-2015 to the present.” The opening of an OCR investigation does not imply wrongdoing, the OCR says.

May 31, 2017

  • Vengalattore asks Schuyler County Court to hold the University in contempt for failing to start a new tenure review.

June 1, 2017

  • The University imposes a two-week unpaid suspension on Vengalattore.

June 2, 2017

  • Vengalattore shows up to work anyway.

Read a consolidated account of the tenure review process here.

  • Disappointed alum

    Thank you, Cornell Sun, for continuing to shed light on this dark, secretive process.

  • Sam

    How scary that the dean of the Graduate School says that allegations can be tantamount to evidence! An Ivy League dean who apparently has not learned the lessons of history.

    • Mark

      Well, the President of Harvard, Increase Mather, took time away from his educational duties to attend to the witchcraft trials over in Salem; Increase’s son Cotton was running the courts that were stringing up these agents of Satan based on witness allegations, which might have been called kangaroo courts except I don’t think they knew about kangaroos back then.

      Mind you, that was some years ago. More recently, Harvard dismissed professors in the 1950s for political reasons (based again witness allegations). Cornell, to its credit, did not, despite pressure to dismiss Philip Morrison from the Physics Department.

      Your point about the lessons of history appears well placed.

  • No oversight of Cornell Administrators

    The Committee Chair said “… I feel constrained in what we can tell you about specific things that are in them, because we were instructed not to share those documents with you … I’m simply reporting to you what I was told, and I did not pursue the matter because I did not think it appropriate for me to pursue the matter.”
    Are you kidding me? Seriously, John Mark Guckenheimer – are you kidding me?
    After nine months of deliberations and reams of evidence, that’s all you have to say?

    What’s the point of having “independent” committees if they are going to parrot and do whatever the administrators want them to?
    So all these committees – review committees, fact-finding committees, this committee, that committee, even judicial committees, are they all just rigged by the administrators?
    Because the committees that come up with recommendations that administrators don’t want, their recommendations seemingly are either ignored, or they are ordered to reverse their findings and recommendations by the Counsel?!

    What a sham! And what a shame!

    • so confusing

      What “reams of evidence”? if you know something more than what the article says you can’t expect us to understand what you are saying.

    • Not the worst of the lot ..

      To be fair to the Committee Chair, let’s compare his admittedly spineless conduct to the rest of these characters –
      (a) Ritter : Hides allegations, refuses to investigate them, maintains they have been “established” when Cornell’s own investigators say the allegations are “exagerrations”, makes up her own policies, tries to manipulate the tenure dossier to hide/remove information, retaliates against the professor after his victory in the lawsuit.
      (b) Physics department chair : Discriminates against Vengalatorre’s research program, claims the “documents are destroyed” to hide evidence of his bias.
      (c) Physics DGS : misrepresents student statements, i.e. lies about them.
      (d) Dean of Faculty, Fontaine : Brazenly falsifies the appeals committees recommendation and misleads Vengalatorre, apparently at the behest of Ritter.
      (e) Paulette Clancy : ignores the consultant’s report in favor of her racist generalizations about the Indian sub-continent. This is a particularly detestable specimen – or maybe this is normal procedure for tenure evaluations at Cornell?
      (f) the student LA who apparently brags about ruining Vengalatorre’s chances at tenure with false allegations : the less said about this person, the better.

      So, all things considered, the appeals committee chair probably comes off looking good in this cast of criminals.

      • Yogesh Patil

        I disagree.
        The cast of criminals you refer to will persist and reign if those entrusted with holding them accountable betray that trust.

        “Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. He is not a good man who, without a protest, allows wrong to be committed in his name, and with the means which he helps to supply, because he will not trouble himself to use his mind on the subject. It depends on the habit of attending to and looking into public transactions, and on the degree of information and solid judgment respecting them that exists in the community, whether the conduct of the nation as a nation, both within itself and towards others, shall be selfish, corrupt, and tyrannical, or rational and enlightened, just and noble.”

        • alum

          There was a time when physicists had a conscience. Look at Cornell’s own Yuri Orlov. Ever since the 90’s though, Cornell just lost the great physicists to other universities. I remember a time when all the physics graduate students and professors in the US wanted to be at Cornell. Not so any more. If the documents and articles are any indication of what has become of Cornell and the physics department, it is no surprise. You sound smothered at that place. Just get out of there with your degree and find better company for yourself.

  • BN

    Congratulations to Cornell Sun for the professional and objective account of the appalling atrocities that have gone on for such a long time, behind public eye in the name of confidentiality.

    Cornell University is where it is today due to the dreams, talent, integrity and hard work of many. A few unscrupulous elements should not be allowed to ruin the reputation of the university.

    My thoughts and wishes:

    The guilty should be punished no matter who they are: No body is above the law.

    The professor who has done his job commendably and who has been ill-treated for so long should be rewarded and compensated for the lost time and suffering. American justice is or should be beyond color, creed, race or Nationality.

    The courageous and justly loyal students who have supported and stood with their mentor deserve applaud and encouragement. They should be well compensated for the stress they have gone through.

    • K Davis

      “Courageous and justly loyal”? What? This isn’t Braveheart. This is physics. Fealty is not part of the graduate admission process. Grad students are supposed to, I dunno, pass the quals, act like professionals, and investigate research thoroughly? I guess if you really wanna go for ‘loyalty’, grad students should be loyal to, say, the scientific method?

      “Done his job commendably”? By far, the most citations he has is on a review article – i.e., not original research. For original research articles where he is either first or last author (i.e., grad student doing the drudgery or thought leader professor), he has, at best, an average of 14 citations. “World class”? Alrighty then. I guess that makes me world class. Sweet.

      What is the distinction between color and race? Also, how does any of this make you think that this has anything to do with his “color, creed, race, or Nationality”?

      Should the grad students be compensated? Perhaps by MV, as the conclusion of misconduct and perjure in the investigation thereof will probably negatively impact their professional trajectories and that’s a bummer. I just don’t think it’s commonplace.

      • Concerned alum

        I don’t think this has anything to do with his “color, creed, race, or nationality.” But OCR investigates discrimination due not only to those factors but to sex (gender) as well. It seems that the female was believed, pretty much by default, and MV was not — because of their genders, not because of the facts. That’s gender-based discrimination.

      • Tobias

        Seeing that he has been fighting these false accusations for several years while running his group, I do believe both Mukund has done remarkably well. And so have his students. With all of this going on in the background, I cannot imagine the focus and dedication it takes to keep coming in to work every day, running experiments, writing proposals, teaching and doing all the other things a faculty member has to do.

        “Alrighty then. I guess that makes me world class. Sweet.” … Congratulations! By the way, how many departments and committees have recommended your tenure at Cornell?

      • Yogesh Patil

        No need to be unnecessarily dramatic, K Davis. Just chill.

        1. Your “This isn’t Braveheart. This is physics” comment
        I, nor any of the graduate students in the labs, gives a pittance about “loyalty”.
        Show us any evidence proving the allegations against Mukund, and we will voluntarily not be “loyal”.
        Despite a three year witch-hunt against Mukund, Ritter and Cornell did not come up with any evidence.

        2. Your “Done his job commendably?” comment
        You were not one of Mukund’s expert reviewers during his tenure review for a reason – you are not qualified to judge his scientific accomplishments. For anyone who doubts Mukund’s scientific accomplishments, read the external letters of reference that experts in his field wrote as a part of his tenure review.
        The possibility of doing a better job than Mukund has already done assumes, at the least, a non-interfering, let alone a supportive, Department. Especially when Mukund was setting up a new field at the department. That possibility of doing a better job does not account for a Department which brazenly discriminates in graduate student admissions, and which then lies about it (and several other things) in official documents. And which then point blank refuses to share these documents with him, simply so that he can’t refute the lies in them! Mukund has indeed done his job commendably, despite all the hurdles Cornell and Cornell Physics put in his path.
        Once you have read the expert external reviewers’ letters, remind yourself that the reviewers did not know about the hardships that Mukund and our group were forced to bear. Then re-read their letters, and try to comprehend what their statements imply about Mukund’s abilities.
        (By the way, you sound like a professor at Cornell Physics who is just pissed off that the Department’s latest report concluded that Mukund has one of the highest, if not the highest, citations per paper of all the faculty at the Department. Don’t try to rationalize (or to come up with a single ad hoc statistic) as to why you are better than Mukund – like Cornell, you will fail miserably. Accomplished people don’t need to belittle others’ accomplishments – they give others a leg up.)

        3. Your question “how does any of this make you think that this has anything to do with his “color, creed, race, or Nationality”?”
        Commenting on articles without reading them first is just humiliating yourself, K Davis. The answer to your question –
        It is the statement in the Provost’s report saying “Clearly the only students who are prepared to take the abuse [Vengalattore] dishes out are both men and they are both from the Indian sub-continent, where perhaps the culture between advisor and protege is different.”

        Let me know if you have any other misunderstandings, and I will clear them up.

  • Cornell Professor

    Ritter’s statements are so confusing. First she tells the professor that she would ‘suspend the imposition of any sanctions pending the outcome of your tenure appeal’. Then, she tells the Court that she ‘implemented a number of sanctions immediately.’ So which is it? She has different stories for different audiences. And what is her explanation for why she waited 5-6 months before informing the professor of the allegations? This is the individual who is now accusing the professor of lying about a ‘relationship’ – based on an investigation that reached the ‘stratosphere of injustice’? This is the individual who claims allegations have been “established” when the investigators themselves say it is an “exaggeration”. Doesn’t she see the irony of the situation here?

    And if the judge has already said that Vengalatorre was entitled to a hearing on the relationship allegation (which to me is pretty obvious that there should be a hearing on all the allegations), then why is there still no hearing?

    • K Davis

      1. Mukund was never investigated for rape (as stated in the article). That the investigation did not find evidence of rape is nearly meaningless given they did not investigate a rape allegation. On a related note, there is no evidence that Bill Cosby raped anybody but Andrea Constance. I’m not about to encourage any friends of mine to go spend some alone time with him.

      2. He was charged with misconduct. He perjured himself in that investigation, for no reason other than he didn’t want to get caught with this, frankly, relatively minor level of accusation. The cover up is always worse than the crime. Still problematic though, as Nixon would tell you.

      3. “The excitement of students on all levels is palpable” – “lolol” – anyone who has ever been a graduate student. Pride perhaps, but excitement from all students on all levels? Please, someone check them for Stockholm syndrome or drug test them for uppers.

      P.S. That ‘average number of citations’ assertion doesn’t hold much water. By a football field, the most citations he has is on a review article – i.e., not original research. For original research articles where he is either first or last author (i.e., grad student doing the drudgery or thought leader professor), he has, at best, an average of 14 citations. “World class”? Alrighty then.

      • Professor in Vengalatorre’s department

        Wow! You sure have it in for him. A law professor at Cornell himself has said there was no direct evidence of any relationship (see previous article). So are you saying Mukund committed perjury merely by maintaining his innocence? If there is no evidence and there probably was no relationship, what was he covering up? And as the Court pointed out, where was the hearing on this ‘charge’?

        And what is your explanation for the documentation of fraud by the Univeristy administrators? If his tenure case really was that meritless, why the need for such transparent fraud and why do committees keep recommending tenure? And why they keep refusing to investigate all the other accusations leveled by the same student? This student has leveled a whole bunch of accusations at Mukund which the department itself knew were simply untrue. If a person states her intention to make the tenure case difficult and levels 15 accusations, all of which have been demonstrated to be false, how do you credit her 16th accusation especially in the absence of direct evidence? More so when these allegations are made years after the alleged event and two days after she learned that the department recommended tenure?

        And if you know his students (and I do), you’ll also know that his group has been desperately short-staffed for years. Despite this, they are indeed extremely hard working, dedicated and doing some wonderfully original experiments – in my opinion, far more so that the norm in Cornell phsyics. Also, are you now calling the HR consultant a liar? The Ritter syndrome seems to be catching on – if you dislike or disagree with someone, just call them a liar or redact information.

        Finally, his own senior student (who’s published nearly all his papers with Mukund) has more than 20 citations/paper working under Mukund. So your numbers, like your opinions, seem to be way off.

      • TKD

        Ritter in her own letter claims there is ‘insufficient evidence’ of any assault even if such a complaint had been timely made. The judge went farther and said there was no evidence of any assault. If there really had been no investigation due to a ‘time bar’, then why would she state this in her letter?

        Also, Ritter has claimed allegations were established even when her own investigators deem them to be exaggerations. Objectively, this seems like a person with no credibility (Ritter) judging the accusations of another person (LA) with no credibility and a declared vendetta against the professor. This is precisely why due process and hearings are so important to establish what actually happened. Without a proper investigation, a hearing in front of a committee or other disinterested parties, none of Ritter’s claims should have any implication. And if Ritter genuinely can show there is clear evidence of a relationship or wrong-doing, why is she so reluctant to authorize a hearing? The facts only become stronger with more scrutiny and oversight. It is the lies that need the protection of secrecy.

        And your allusion to Cosby is striking …. in how way off base you seem to be. Who’s been repeatedly asking for an investigation and a hearing on this matter? Who’s been repeatedly trying to cover it up? Think about it, and see if your comparison makes any sense. In rushing to believe an accusation regardless of facts or due process, it is a pity that people like you don’t realize how much damage you can cause, and how much harder you make it for true victims to receive justice.

        Cornell is currently the school with the most OCR investigations. People like Affel have already caused Cornell to lose lawsuits for discrimination and denial of due process. These are the very people who are now claiming there was a romantic relationship while preventing a hearing. Sounds very shady to me.

      • Physics Grad

        K. Davis – Read the article before embarassing yourself with your preconcieved notions. Also, according to your definition of “perjury”, anybody who is falsely accused of misconduct and chooses to defend their reputation is guilty of “perjury”. As for your third comment, it again shows your complete inability to assess simple facts. If students leave the group after being overwhelmed by the expeirments and feeling like they can “do nothing right”, its apparently the professor’s fault. And if students protest the manner in which their professor is being treated by the department and come forward with the real facts, it is because they are suffering from “Stockholm syndrome” and it is again the professor’s fault? Your chain of “logic” is amazing. Try looking at the facts instead of working backwards from a preconcieved and entirely false conclusion. Hopefully you will realize that this is far more closely related to the Duke and Virginia hoaxes than to Bill Cosby.

        And before you get too carried away in your obvious blind belief of LA’s claims, I know for a fact that senior LASSP professors who have seen the evidence are disgusted by her dishonest conduct and refused to serve on her thesis committee since they strongly felt she should have been expelled for misconduct. Are they suffering from “Stockholm syndrome” or did they just have the basic intelligence to look at all the evidence with an open mind?

  • dmars

    I can’t believe that my A&S donations are being used for this bullshit. What is the prvost up to allowing such racist statements in his report? I am not giving another dime till rapists and racists and sexists and bigots are held accountable by Cornell. Find yourself another donor.

  • seongwoo oh

    The way I see it, the university has a real opportunity at hand here. It’s the university ‘s fault to grant total and unchecked power to a few administrators to make tenure decisions, while every time the matter was put to the vote, he had overwhelming support in favor of his tenure. By openly admitting to having the faulty policy that has been in place for a long time and fixing it as quickly as possibly while removing some of those administrators who have made grave errors, the university can control the PR damage that has already been done and bring transparency to the tenure review process. Then, future employees of Cornell will feel safer about going to Cornell to work, knowing that through the recent fiasco that the article talks about, much of the dysfunctional process has been corrected. It is no secret that Cornell physics has been struggling badly to attract quality professors in recent years. It was lucky to have someone like professor Vengalattore and instead of helping him achieve the best he can, it sabotaged his work every chance it got. The university should have dealt with this issue a lot quicker before it turned into a big litigation mess. Well…. now that it has already turned into a big litigation mess, the best it can do, even for the selfish reason of damage containment, is to follow the court instructions. What other options does it actually have? I am a Cornell physics graduate and what is best for the department is also in my best interest. Let the world see that the department and the university are capable of correcting themselves in a transparent manner.

  • Cornell Alum

    Congratulations Cornell Sun! and keep up the good work. If the WPLR investigation was conducted along the same lines as the tenure review, I would not be surprised if there was more behind-the-scenes fraud there as well.

    I find it very telling that Vengallatore has been the one who has asked for an investigation and a hearing, and Ritter and Cornell are the ones who keep denying this request. Based on that alone, it is clear who is trying to get the facts out in the open and who is trying to hide something.

    I request the Cornell Sun to look more into this investigation as well – let the facts come out and let there be some clear resolution on this. When law professors like Kevin Clermont or Cynthia Farina have concerns about the investigation and the charges, I think there is cause for a lot of doubt about the allegations or any notion that Vengallatore committed misconduct.

    Also, who is supporting Ritter in her claims? As far as I can see, the only things that have been truly established (thanks to the Sun’s reporting) is that Ritter has violated the professor’s due process rights, has tried to create new tenure policies specifically for Vengallatore that are grossly unfair, has retaliated against the professor after the lawsuit, and a large number of senior administrators including Ritter, Fontaine and Kotlikoff have committed perjury. And these are the very same administrators that are trying to demean Vengallatore??? I would be very skeptical about anything Ritter says at this point.

  • Concerned Faculty

    ‘Any person, any study’ …. as long as they are not people from the subcontinent. This wasn’t a tenure review, it was a lynching.

    And is anybody (law enforcement, federal govt) looking out for Vengalatorre and his group now that these facts have been exposed? Ritter and her cronies have shown no regard for the rule of law and have already retaliated against him and his entire group. The OCR does not initiate investigations without strong prima facie evidence of wrong-doing by the University. What is Ritter’s response going to be once she realizes her misconduct is now public knowledge? Who’s protecting Vengalatorre and his students from these criminals?

  • Upper Campus

    I am really proud of the Sun for this reporting. Especially the time line and the facts as they came out. This is real journalism. And as a CU BS, MS, PhD, ex-employee and now Adjunct I am disgusted by the behaviour of the administration. I am old enough to remember Dean Mallot and yes, James Perkins, who were honourable leaders, despite differences they may have had with faculty.

    • Cornell lecturer

      I second that! This is really great work to expose this administration. Please continue this outstanding work!

      In terms of administrators past, this current set is a disgrace not only in terms of their arrogance and lack of honesty, but also in terms of their complete lack of remorse. They have caused incalculable damage not only to this professor and his career, but also to his students and the physics department as a whole.

      Regarding the documentation of overtly racist statements and fraud, I predict (with sadness) that these same administrators will merely appoint another dozen ‘vice-advisory-sub-provosts for diversity’ at exorbitant salaries and decree that to be a solution, i.e. find another dozen non-contributing members of the university community who can be relied upon to pay obeisance to these administrators, and elevate them to these meaningless positions to continue keeping up appearances.

      Maybe they will hold a few more receptions for ‘faculty of color’ and a few more photo-ops and sound-bites to paste on the cornell webpage. Perhaps they will require the faculty and students to undergo ‘mandatory trainings’ and write annual reports on diversity to be judged by …. Kotlikoff, Gretchen Ritter and their accomplices. These parasites are not going away that easily and its become all about perception at Cornell.

  • Concerned observer

    Kindly bear with me if I am repeating what you all know. I couldn’t help sharing what I gather from the articles in Cornell Sun, and the web search:

    • MV is a sought after hire- “Vengalattore was an important hire for the University, his former colleague Prof. Keith Schwab….”
    • MV and group build a facility for atomic, molecular, and orbital physics in 526 square feet of empty lab space. The research has produced well acknowledged and publicized findings- by Cornell Chronicle, international media CUNY TV.
    • Proves an effective teacher- Student rating
    • Proves an extraordinary mentor- a number of undergraduate physics awards, the students sentiments found here and that of the Merrill Scholar Chandler Kemp’s “he has a contagious passion for science that inspired me to view my lab work as joy rather than a job…..Ref: 2012 Reunion State of the University Address by the president David J. Skorton
    • Proves to be committed researcher- a number of well cited publications in top physics journals and prestigious awards and funding from Sloan, DARPA, NSF, MURI

    (I am not saying such achievements are unusual- this is what a passionate teacher and researcher does. Usually they are encouraged, rewarded and retained.)

    When the tenure review starts:
    • A student who leaves the lab voluntarily, saying she is having challenges with the work and is “beginning to feel that I can do nothing right.” And later tells a post doc that “if I have my way, [Vengalattore] will have a hard time getting tenure,” lodges a number of complaints selectively to the review committee starting from “angry interactions” to “sexual assault followed by romantic secret relationship.” These complaints are a marked contrast from a 2011 letter the student wrote praising the professor for encouraging students “to take any opportunities to talk about our research and advocating that his assistant professorship be renewed”.

    What do those involved in the tenure process do?
    • “Parpia calls LA and tells her about the department’s vote, according to LA.” Two days after learning of the vote, the student says Vengalattore had previously sexually assaulted her, after which a year-long secret, sexual relationship allegedly followed. Can any one settle for a romantic relationship with some one who attacked?
    • The dean redacts dossier, claims the “documents are destroyed” to hide positive evidence, hides the positive Strausser report on MV’s lab atmosphere- “The excitement of students on all levels is palpable,” “The lab is described with a high degree of pride by students who talk about their roles, large and small.”
    • Ignore the various positive recommendations of the appeals committees
    • Ignore the court order
    • Suspend MV for two weeks (for what?)

    All these clearly show it is a criminal plot against MV by the vengeful student, department chair, the dean and the other characters to destroy the reputation and the career . What a pain to MV and what a waste of time and resources.
    This sends a derogatory message that
    • Cornell is no more interested in academic achievements and justice,
    • If any one wants to do take revenge, send an allegation, the school will do the job for them.
    This case and the articles on “bias on sexual assault investigation” are highly disturbing. It is a sad day for Cornell and the public if a parent has to say, “Son, don’t go to Cornell, there is no justice”.

    My sincere wishes to MV for speedy justice so that he can continue his remarkable teaching and research journey in a an honest and conducive atmosphere.

  • Cornell Alum

    As someone who has been following the kangaroo courts authorized by Cornell to railroad male students, I am not surprised that crooks like Sarah Affel are at it again. She has been a disgrace and needs to be thrown out of campus. At the same time, employees and faculty members are not as easy a target as defenseless students. They have clear rights to evidentiary hearings, counsel etc. So, I don’t see how the professor could be treated like this (e.g. pronounced guilty without evidence, or unjustifiably accused of lying or denied a hearing) without the support and complicity of the administration.

    In this regard, I am particularly concerned that the Physics chair and Ritter (the very individuals who have discriminated against his research, committed serious violations and in Ritter’s case, been declared guilty by a judge of arbitrary and capricious behavior, violation of his rights, fraud, retaliation etc) are the ones who are trying to destroy his reputation, character and career. I don’t know if a direct link can be established between Parpia, Ritter, LA and the accusations leveled at the professor immediately after the departmental vote. But if this indeed is the case, this is no longer just a tenure matter – it is a criminal matter with very serious implications not just for Gretchen Ritter and Parpia, but for a number of senior administrators and Cornell university as a whole.

    • Faculty from another Ivy league school

      I have to agree … Universities respond in one way if they’ve made an honest mistake and in a completely different way if they’ve been caught in a lie (or in this case, likely criminal conduct).

      In the first case, they immediately rectify their mistake, sticking very closely to procedure and policies, and move forward constructively to mitigate further damage to the faculty member’s career.

      In the second case, they throw out the rule book and engage in retaliation, intimidation and coercion to suppress the facts, suppress outside scrutiny and go out of their way to get rid of the faculty member. Based on this timeline, it is clear that Cornell administration is in an inextricable hole and there is bound to be a very large body count before this matter finally comes to a close and the professor gets his long overdue justice.

      I think there is still a large part of this matter that has yet to be exposed and the mere fact that corrupt, dishonest and racist individuals like Gretchen Ritter and Michael Kotlikoff still continue in their positions of power is a disgrace to Cornell. My congratulations to the Cornell Sun for bringing these facts to light. Please continue covering this matter and investigating this matter further.

    • Physics graduate student

      See the following website set up by the professor’s students – https://sites.google.com/view/harassmentatcornellphysics/what-does-cornell-have-to-hide

      Based on this (and other documents on the website), it is very clear that the physics department faculty were neck-deep in this criminal farce of a tenure review. It also seems clear why the Cornell administration is so scared of granting the professor’s request of a hearing (which in any honest and rational university would have been the first step of this entire process). In any hearing, the witch-hunt and rumor-mongering comes to an end and the actual facts come out, i.e. that the professor was never guilty of any of these false charges and that physics faculty, Ritter and this student LA have committed some very serious crimes.

      Ritter, Parpia and their partners in crime clearly hadn’t bargained on all these facts and documents coming to public light. The Cornell administration and the Cornell physics department leadership is racist and rotten from top to bottom.

      Seeing that the trustees clearly don’t have the guts or the inclination to take the trash out, I think the situation calls for a public shaming of criminals like Kotlikoff, Ritter and the Cornell physics department by the alumni organizations, the grant agencies and federal agencies like the OCR. I don’t want my Ph.D degree tarnished by these criminals who belong in jail but are instead masquerading as tenured physics faculty or senior administrators.

  • Billy Bob

    I call on the Cornell faculty to right this obvious wrong. Come on people, what are you waiting for?

    Organize! Fight! Demand explanations and justice!

    This story can happen to YOU! It only takes one disgruntled student to take down your career and derail your life.

    The Dean must be taken down and this professor must be made whole.

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  • Condensed matter physicist

    Reading through this article, the website on the harassment against Mukund’s group, the court documents and the comments, it is clear that only a fraction of the ‘behind-the-scenes’ shenanigans has been revealed.

    1. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Ritter has to go. She is a corrupt, dishonest fraud who does not belong in University administration. Sacrificing Mukund’s career and reputation based on unsubstantiated allegations from a clearly disgruntled and vindictive student, merely for the sake of political convenience is contemptible. Violating his rights, casting aside policies, concocting new rules on her own, suppressing or removing information, retaliating against him in such an overt manner etc speaks of a criminal who clearly needs a dose of humility and some time alone to reflect on her conduct.

    2. The Cornell physics department has damned itself by its continued silence. I see comments here that call the faculty to act. The Cornell physics department is neck deep in this fraud and is not going to act until the scientific community holds the physics department accountable and treats these people with the contempt they deserve. The notion that discriminating against Mukund’s program is ‘not contrary to departmental practice’ is disgraceful but sadly, something we’ve all come to expect of Cornell physics. People like Parpia, McEuen, Muller, Seamus Davis etc. are political scumbags who expect to dole out political favours in return for intellectual credit on papers, proposals etc. To anybody who has observed the Cornell physics department over the past decade or so, this is hardly a surprise. To his everlasting credit, it appears Mukund refused to play this game. This should not be the epitaph on his career – it should be the epitaph on the careers of these ‘senior’ people. I suggest a letter campaign to the NSF, the Kavli Foundation, the MRSEC, the Moore foundation etc. asking these organizations to conduct an external inquiry into this matter. Until then, tenured Cornell physics faculty should not be invited to conferences, nominated for awards etc – the same penalties as for scientists adjudged guilty of scientific fraud.

    Having heard senior Cornell physicists’ excuses over the past three years in regard to this fiasco, I can also see that the department’s storyline of ‘an idiot Dean who overruled the department’s tenure recommendation and is immune to reason or facts’ is not completely accurate. The court documents and this timeline clearly reveal a department that actively conspired to sabotage Mukund’s prospects. If it is indeed true that Parpia and his cohorts deliberately solicited false allegations of sexual misconduct to divert attention from their own conduct, this is a criminal matter – period.

    3. LA needs to be held to account. Further, I know for a fact that her accomplices in NIST Gaithersburg, in particular Ian Spielman, his postdocs and students, have played their part in spreading these false alelgations about Mukund. I also know for a fact that Mukund has lost out on several collaborative ventures, grants and speaking engagements as a result of their activities. They need to be held accountable as well.

    Seeing Cornell Physics and the Cornell administration have no interest in apologizing for their criminal conduct or making reparations to Mukund and his students, it is up to the scientific community to do this. It will be to our everlasting shame if we allows these criminals to bully Mukund and his students into subjugation. In addition, the precedent this would set is too terrible to contemplate.

  • Dr. Kendra Letchworth Weaver

    Condensed Matter Physicist, from the shelter of your anonymity you have chosen to attack the characters of some incredibly hardworking and brilliant professors. It was my privilege to work with some of these scientists during my time completing a PhD in the physics department at Cornell (though I’m not claiming that the administration, the department, or its tenure review process are perfect). LA did not have to come forward with her allegations, but she had the courage to do so in order to prevent harm to future physics students at Cornell. However, you lack the courage to attach your name to your unsubstantiated personal attacks, which extend far beyond the purview of one tenure case. I challenge you and anyone else who has commented anonymously above to reveal your identities. Providing commentary under a cloud of secrecy proves that you are part of the problem rather than part of the solution, regardless of your opinion on the merits or demerits of this particular tenure case.

    • David M

      As an academic, licking boots of powerful people is commonly done. It is definitely plausible that this guy did not do their bidding and was then punished. Also, from what is written on his website, it does not look like LA came forward with her allegations to prevent harm to future students. He claims that LA came forward with the allegations only once her phd was threatened to be terminated. And waiting five years till his tenure process began for making such allegations does look suspicious. Wrongful accusations of sexual harassment are plenty, and I know colleagues who do not hire female students anymore for fear of that.

    • LASSP researcher

      Dear Dr. Weaver, how was LA ‘preventing harm to future physics students’? By shielding them from the ‘palpable excitement’ about Mukund’s experiments that she never could feel? By shielding them from the multiple awards and honours that Mukund’s students have acquired over the past several years? From the pride they feel at the experiments that she never could get to work? LA realized her lies were catching up to her and her phd was about to be terminated due to her misconduct. Nothing more … if Cornell had even an iota of evidence supporting her claims, why didn’t they state this in court? Instead, they themselves admitted that her claims should not have been a part of the tenure process – and concocted new post-hoc justifications for their tenure decision.

      In England, people who make false allegations of sexual misconduct or assault face criminal charges and incarceration. I very much hope increased awareness of frauds and liars like LA and her accomplices in Cornell Physics causes a similar system to be put in place in the US as well. Before you put your foot too deep in your mouth, I suggest you read the court documents in his website carefully with an open mind…

      https://sites.google.com/view/harassmentatcornellphysics/what-does-cornell-have-to-hide

      Stating the facts does not require public displays of plumage or mock indignation. The facts stand up for themselves.