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Cornell denies student his Ph.D. – and may expel him – for allegedly defending professor against rape claim

UPDATED

‘Sexual harassment’ is omitting a middle initial in an author list

You don’t have to be accused of sexual assault to face a Kafkaesque proceeding at Cornell University that could deprive you the benefits of seven years’ hard work and money.

Not dissuaded by a third of its law school faculty going to court to force Cornell to follow its own Title IX rules, the Ivy League institution is now withholding a Ph.D. from a student for the crime of allegedly defending his professor.

The university made the call “three days before he was slated to graduate,” The Cornell Daily Sun reports, and now Yogesh Patil is at risk of getting sent back to India as the Title IX office investigates a Title IX retaliation claim against him.

Patil’s adviser Mutund Vengalattore was denied tenure based on a dubious rape allegation that was made by a physics student after the tenure committee brushed aside minor complaints against him.

While a New York court ordered Cornell to give Vengalattore a new tenure review a year ago, blasting the university for ignoring its own rules and hiding the rape allegation from him, an appeals court disagreed and overturned the ruling in March. (The uploader of that appeals ruling is a Cornell media relations employee, John Carberry.)

MORE: Cornell uses secret rape allegation by vengeful student to deny tenure

Vengalattore’s accuser recently filed a complaint against Patil, obtained by The Sun, for allegedly running a Google-hosted website that tells Vengalattore’s side of the story and includes reams of court documents. She considers this retaliation for making a “good faith” sexual misconduct report, though the complaint doesn’t specify against whom.

The accuser is identified by name “at least once” on the site, according to The Sun, though Vengalattore’s lawsuit appears to redact her name consistently and focuses largely on Cornell’s allegedly deficient process. (Her name is Lauren Aycock, according to criminal defense lawyer Scott Greenfield, who has blogged about the case and sees no reason why her name should remain concealed while she accuses Vengalattore and Patil.)

But Patil has denied owning or running the site, and the accuser (“LA”) has not answered Sun questions about “why she feels the web content constitutes retaliation”:

Details of those allegations have emerged on the Google site in question, but LA’s Title IX complaint against Patil singles out as retaliatory only information “obtained in the course of a Policy 6.4 investigation conducted by Workforce Policy and Labor Relations”. Four pages on the website that contain audio clippings and links to documents are identified as containing such information, but no further specification of what lines or quotes LA finds retaliatory is given.

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She appears to be referring to the investigation of her complaints against Vengalattore by the Cornell office that handles Title IX complaints against faculty and staff, which cleared Vengalattore of the rape claim but found that the two “probably had an inappropriate romantic relationship” in violation of Cornell policy.

One of her allegations against Vengalattore included that he left her “middle initial” off her name in an author list, which constituted “sexual harassment,” according to his email to a colleague.

Patil can be expelled if he loses the complaint brought by “LA.” Even if he wins, his transcript still contains a “temporary notation” that can’t be removed until the complaint is resolved.

He’s raising money through GoFundMe (below) to afford litigation against Cornell, which his lawyers estimate will cost up to $75,000. A former Cornell professor is also trying to “mobilize the physics community” across major universities on Patil’s behalf against Cornell.

Patil could have spared himself this hassle nearly two years ago: According to the Sun, he had published enough by June 2016 to earn his Ph.D. by the end of the summer.

MORE: Cornell claimed male student stole underwear with no evidence

Read the article.

UPDATE: The accuser has been identified as Lauren Aycock by criminal defense lawyer Scott Greenfield. The story has been updated accordingly. A Google search for Aycock’s name also returns a Cornell Daily Sun article about the court order requiring Cornell to reconsider Vengalattore’s tenure application, though her name does not appear on the article page or in its code.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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