Professor to Sue Students for Discrimination

Tuesday 3:45: Dartlog welcomes readers from IvyGate, Gawker, Above the Law, and other blogs. Dartlog is the weblog of The Dartmouth Review, Dartmouth’s only independent newspaper. For more on the controversy surrounding Prof. Venkatesan, see our follow up posts here, here, here, and here (in chronological order). —A.S.

Wednesday 4:11: We now have an interview with Venkatesan online, here. —A.S.

We have just obtained the text of an email that Priya Venkatesan, who has taught Writing 5 classes this year, sent out to members of her 08W Writing 5 Class informing them of an impending lawsuit. Venkatesan is listed as a “Lecturer on Writing” for the Writing department, and is also a Dartmouth alum. The text is reproduced below, and we will update you as this story develops.

UPDATE: Two new emails have surfaced. The first clarifies that the legal action Venkatesan is referring to is a class action suit against the College, meaning there may be other professors involved. The second blitz then re-clarifies, saying that the student is being accused with violating Title VII, and that their charges include but “are not limited to, harassment.” Bizarre.

Date: Sat, 26 Apr 2008 20:56:35 -0400 (EDT)
From: Priya.Venkatesan@Dartmouth.EDU
To: “WRIT.005.17.18-WI08”:;, Priya.Venkatesan@Dartmouth.EDU
Subject: WRIT.005.17.18-WI08: Possible lawsuit

Dear former class members of Science, Technology and Society:

I tried to send an email through my server but got undelivered messages. I regret to inform you that I am pursuing a lawsuit in which I am accusing some of you (whom shall go unmentioned in this email) of violating Title VII of anti-federal [SIC] discrimination laws.
The feeling that I am getting from the outside world is that Dartmouth is considered a bigoted place, so this may not be news and I may be successful in this lawsuit.
I am also writing a book detailing my experiences as your instructor, which will “name names” so to speak. I have all of your evaluations and these will be reproduced in the book.

Have a nice day.

Priya

Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. We are also interested in finding out what exactly “anti-federal discrimination laws” are.

Students named in the lawsuit (as well as “editor@dartmouth.com,” which we assume she believes is editor@thedartmouth.com) have apparently received the following two blitzes as well:

— Forwarded message from “Priya Venkatesan” —

From: “Priya Venkatesan” To: <[REDACTED]Dartmouth.EDU>,
Subject: Re: Class Action Suit
Date: Fri, 25 Apr 2008 [time redacted]

Dear Student:

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

Priya Venkatesan, PhD
—– Original Message —–
From: Priya Venkatesan
To: [REDACTED]@Dartmouth.edu ; editor@dartmouth.com
Sent: Friday, April 25, 2008 [time redacted]
Subject: Class Action Suit

Dear Student:

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

Priya Venkatesan, PhD

UPDATE: A particularly insightful student review of her 08W class from the SA guide:

Aside from the fact that I learnt nothing of value in this class besides the repeated use of the word “postmodernism” in all contexts (whether appropriate or not) and the fact that Professor Venkatesan is the most confusing/nonsensical lecturer ever, the main problem with this class is the personal attacks launched in class. Almost every member of the class was personally attacked in some form in the class by either intimidation or ignoring your questions/comments/concerns. If you decide to take this class, prepare to NOT be allowed to express your own opinions in class because you have “yet to obtain your Ph.D/masters/bachelors degree”. We were forced to write an in-class essay on “respect” (and how we lacked it) because we expressed our views on controversial topics and some did not agree with the views of “established scholars” who have their degrees.

Additionally, your essays will (at most) receive 2 lines worth of feedback, along with a miserable letter grade.

All in all, there are much better ways to understand science, technology, and society than to suffer through ten weeks of emotional battering.

P.S. After the jump, find out why Venkatesan thinks French Narrative Theory is the best way to study biology. —A.S.

P.P.S. The Chair of the Writing Program has asked us to take down Venkatesan’s photo. —A.S.

After finishing up my studies in literature, I entered a molecular biology lab at DMS with the intention of seeking parallels between scientific practice and literature. My interests in graduate school were mainly theoretical, as I textually analyzed certain aspects of scientific communication. However, for me, a question remained: Is there room for literary theory within the framework of the laboratory?

The full piece can be found here.