Former professor accuses Marshall University of racial discrimination

By Kyla Asbury | Jun 5, 2017

HUNTINGTON – A former Marshall University professor is suing the university after he claims he was discriminated against because of his race.

HUNTINGTON – A former Marshall University professor is suing the university after he claims he was discriminated against because of his race.

Dr. Wei-ping Zeng was a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology in the university’s medical school, according to a complaint filed May 23 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

Zeng claims he and two other professors in the department applied for tenure over the last several years, but Zeng was denied tenure, while the other two professors were granted tenure.

In the one-year period immediately prior to the plaintiff’s tenure application, his overall medical teaching evaluation score was 4.449, which was better than his two colleagues who had been granted tenure, according to the suit.

Zeng claims he continued to deliver excellent teaching performance the semester, after he learned that he was not recommended for tenure and, for the two courses he taught, he received averages of 4.640 and 4.557, both of which were better than the department averages of 4.635 and 4.464.

The plaintiff had taught seven graduate courses, averaged at 20.83 hours per year and had mentored five graduate students and medical residents, which he believes his teaching activities were much more than or at least comparable to the other two professors’, according to the suit.

Zeng claims after complaining about the discrimination, the university retaliated against him by ending his employment early.

The plaintiff believes he was denied tenure because he had not brought in any external funding to support his work, which was not a tenure requirement, according to the suit.

On Feb. 8, 2016, the medical school dean, Dr. J. Shapiro, sent Zeng a decision letter informing him that he was not being awarded tenure. A meeting was held on Feb. 22, 2016, in which Shapiro told Zeng that if he “did not make a fuss” about the tenure decision, the dean would allow him to continue working for the school through 2017.

On March 21, 2016, the plaintiff filed a questionnaire with the EEOC regarding discrimination based on race and national origin and retaliation for opposing unlawful discrimination, according to the suit.

The defendant threatened early termination if he continued with the grievance and followed through with its threat on June 30, 2016, according to the suit.

Zeng is seeking an order that the court to force Marshall to award him tenure, award him back pay from when he left the school in July last year and compensatory money for damages to his reputation. He is representing himself.

Zeng is currently working at Texas Tech University in El Paso.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number: 3:17-cv-03008

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Marshall University U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia Huntington Division

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