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Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Former department chair sues University for $8 million

A research professor is suing the University for $8 million after officials allegedly wrongfully removed him as chair of the department of biochemistry and molecular medicine.

Rakesh Kumar was under investigation for research misconduct, but claims his removal as chair was in violation of processes laid out in the faculty code, the governing document for GW professors, according to a complaint filed in D.C. Superior Court on Jan. 23. He also alleges that the investigation prevented him from obtaining a new job outside of GW.

He alleges that because he was a tenured professor, he had certain rights listed in the faculty code that should have prevented him from being removed as chair on July 23.

In 2012, GW started investigating Kumar’s laboratory after he was accused of research misconduct. During the investigation, confidential information about Kumar’s research was leaked on, a website that tracks mistakes in academic research, according to court documents.

Kumar has issued six corrections and one retraction for his molecular cancer research, according to the website.

He is suing GW for allegedly breaching his contract and putting him in a “false light” after invading his privacy. Aside from the $8 million in damages, he also wants GW to pay for his legal fees.

Kumar claims that because of the investigation, he lost more than $2 million in grants, which prevented him from being hired by a “highly prestigious local institution.”

He also alleges that because the University Police Department escorted him out of Ross Hall during a departmental meeting, he suffered mental distress and has not been able to continue working on his cancer research. He is arguing that GW “acted with evil motive” and “actual malice.”

“Dr. Kumar’s removal by GW Security was very public and humiliating and has irreparably damaged Dr. Kumar’s reputation,” the documents read.

After Kumar was put on administrative leave last May, he was no longer allowed to advise his students who were working toward their Ph.D.s and was replaced by another professor. Kumar had advised one student on her work since 2011, and he claims that losing his role as an adviser was “humiliating, painful and damaging” to his reputation.

Because of the misconduct allegations against him, Kumar has not been able to find another research job. He also alleges that GW denied a “promised” raise to him.

Kumar did not respond to requests for comment. His attorney declined to comment.

University spokeswoman Candace Smith said the University does not comment on pending litigation.

“A complaint reflects only one side of a dispute, and now that this dispute has been taken to a court, GW will respond in that forum,” she said in an email.

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