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UC Berkeley In Brief

Chapela files suit against UC over denial of tenure

– In the latest round of activity relating to his ongoing tenure case, Ignacio Chapela, assistant professor of environmental science, policy and management, has filed a lawsuit against the UC Regents.

The suit, filed Monday in California Superior Court, requests that unspecified damages and injunctive relief be awarded Chapela, who claims that he was denied tenure by then-Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl in November 2003 in part because of his Mexican national origin; that the University failed to act on a complaint he filed in June 2004 asserting that he had been retaliated against for disclosures made under provisions of the California Whistleblower Protection Act; and that he had been fraudulently induced to accept a faculty position at Berkeley because the Regents failed to disclose to him "the existence of secret, de facto requirements for promotion to tenure."

In support of the latter claim, the suit asserts that "The Regents failed to disclose to Dr. Chapela that, regardless of his qualifications and satisfaction of the requirements of University policy, he would likely never obtain tenure due to his intellectual convictions and scholarly focus in the event that certain powerful faculty members and/or administrators disagreed with his research agenda and scholarly publications."

Reacting to this claim, Associate Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs George Strait said, "Given that this campus is the home of the Free Speech Movement, and is where academic freedom is tightly guarded, the charge has little credibility." Strait added, "Last January the university and Professor Chapela signed a consent agreement in which Chapela dropped all of his complaints regarding his tenure denial, and the university agreed to take another look at his case. That review is expected to be completed by the end of the semester."

Chapela's attorney, Dan Siegel, told a small crowd of reporters and Chapela supporters outside Hilgard Hall Monday that the suit would be served on the university sometime this week, and that it will likely come to trial at some point over the next 18 months.