UMKC Professor Suspended With Pay After Report That He Exploited Students For Labor
UPDATED at 3:20 p.m. Nov. 20 with details from a lawsuit filed against UMKC and Ashim Mitra — University of Missouri-Kansas City Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal suspended a prominent pharmacy professor Tuesday after a Kansas City Star report detailed students' allegations that Dr. Ashim Mitra exploited them for free labor.
The allegations are also contained in a lawsuit filed by Mridul Mukherji, another professor in the UMKC School of Pharmacy. According to court documents, “(Mukherji) has repeatedly reported to ... UMKC that Defendant Mitra has been allegedly abusing Indian nationals for more than 15 years, which would date back to the 1990s if accurate.”
A review of Mitra's behavior was already underway when Agrawal took over as chancellor in June. In a statement released after the article was published Sunday, Agrawal said UMKC will be "expanding” the investigation.
Mukherji claimed in the lawsuit to have faced discrimination and harassment after trying to report Mitra’s behavior. In 2017, the lawsuit said, UMKC police had “to respond and defuse a disagreement” between the men, after Mukherji had “countless requests” to not have to meet with Mitra because he “feared for his safety.”
Mitra’s attorney didn’t respond to KCUR’s request for comment. But Mitra told the Star in a statement that he'd invited the students to his house for "work related to their courses of study" but didn't have them "perform chores unrelated to their students." He also told the Star that he didn't "understand the suggestion that anyone was concerned with their visas being at risk."
Mitra's UMKC biography shows he became chairman of the pharmaceutical sciences division in 1994.
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Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and the afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig.
Elle Moxley covers education for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.