Retired campus architecture professor Nezar AlSayyad filed a second lawsuit against the UC Board of Regents on Monday, alleging that he faced racial discrimination in disciplinary action taken against him by the campus.
AlSayyad was suspended for three years without pay after a Title IX investigation found that he had sexually harassed a campus graduate student between 2012 and 2014. He filed an initial suit in September, challenging the duration of his suspension. In the latest lawsuit, AlSayyad, a native of Egypt, alleged that the penalty imposed on him was “far more severe” than the penalties imposed on other, non-Egyptian faculty members accused of similar or “more egregious” acts of sexual misconduct.
“He is being punished far more harshly than any other faculty member at the UC,” alleged AlSayyad’s lawyer Dan Siegel.
According to the lawsuit, the Board of Regents’ actions violated AlSayyad’s right to be free from discrimination based on national origin under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.
During the five-year period preceding AlSayyad’s suspension, several UC faculty members not of Egyptian national origin were accused of sexual harassment but received penalties less harsh than the one imposed on AlSayyad, the lawsuit alleges. Faculty members implicated in recent sexual harassment cases include former vice chancellor for research Graham Fleming and former professor of astronomy Geoffrey Marcy.
Sujit Choudhry, the former UC Berkeley School of Law dean, filed a similar lawsuit in 2016 when he alleged that the campus had implemented unfair employment decisions based on his race and Indian origin. Choudhry dropped the lawsuit two months later.
AlSayyad announced his retirement from the university retroactively, shortly after the suspension was implemented. The lawsuit alleges that following his suspension, AlSayyad suffered compensation and retirement benefit losses and experienced “emotional distress, embarrassment and humiliation.”
“He hopes to get vindication and he hopes to get compensation for the damage that has been done to him,” Siegel said.
Campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said in an email that there is “no merit” to AlSayyad’s claim that national origin played a role in his penalty.
AlSayyad’s earlier lawsuit against Chancellor Carol Christ and the Board of Regents alleged that Christ had exercised an “abuse of discretion” in extending his suspension from one year — as recommended by the Committee on Privilege and Tenure of UC Berkeley’s Division of the Academic Senate — to three years without pay.
Christ had extended AlSayyad’s suspension after the Title IX investigation and a hearing by the Committee on Privilege and Tenure were concluded, according to Gilmore.
“Based on the seriousness of the conduct and her review of the evidence, the Chancellor exercised her discretion to set the suspension at three years without pay and with various additional restrictions,” Gilmore said in an email.
There have been no further developments in the first lawsuit, according to Siegel.