Graduate Students

Professor Who Was Ousted From U. of Utah's Middle East Center Sues Dean

April 12, 2009

One of two professors who were removed from joint appointments to the University of Utah’s Middle East Center last year has filed a defamation lawsuit against the dean of the university’s College of Humanities, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

The professor who sued, Harris Lenowitz, is a scholar of Hebrew in the department of languages and literature. He and another scholar, Peter J. Sluglett, a historian, were dismissed from the center in March 2008 and reassigned full time to their home departments.

A lawyer for Mr. Lenowitz said in a statement quoted by the Salt Lake City newspaper that the dean, Robert D. Newman, had falsely accused her client of contributing to a hostile environment for female faculty members at the center, and had dismissed him without giving him a chance to respond to the accusations. “Even after the center director resigned in protest and five former center faculty, all women, told Newman he was wrong, he has persisted in perpetuating this falsehood,” the lawyer, Kathy Wyer, said.

The newspaper could not reach Mr. Newman for a response.

The lawsuit also alleges that Mr. Newman is putting at risk the federal grant that sustains the center, by failing to replace departing scholars with tenure-track appointments and allowing its faculty ranks to drop from 24 to 12. A federal grant that provides about $500,000 to the center annually is up for renewal this year. —Charles Huckabee