An Open Letter to Michael V. Drake, President of the University of California

Peter Wood

Editor's Note: This letter is made public to further pressure the University of Califonia to ensure fair and equal treatment of all members at insitutions of higher education. 

We do not urge readers who are unacquainted with the cases to rush forward with emails, letters, or posts. Rather, we ask readers to weigh the facts and check our accounts against other sources. If you then agree that a college or university has acted in bad faith or counter to the core principles of liberal inquiry, then we do indeed urge you to speak up.

For those interested, we are also tracking attempted professor cancelations here.

President Michael V. Drake
Office of the President
University of California
1111 Franklin St., 12th Floor
Oakland, CA 94607

Dear Dr. Drake,

I write concerning the case of Dr. Sarkis Joseph Khoury, who retired from the University of California Riverside as full professor of finance, December 31, 2011. Dr. Khoury has been subject to unjust administrative and legal actions by the university extending over most of decade. This is one of those cases that took on a life of its own and kept going for no good reason.

I am president of the National Association of Scholars (NAS), an organization of some 3,400 members, dedicated to fair impartial treatment, academic freedom, and the rule of law for all members of the university. I wrote to your predecessor, Chancellor Napolitano, May 28, 2020 concerning the Khoury matter, which turns on a disputed allegation that Dr. Khoury “double dipped” when he was on sabbatical at the European Business School (EBS) in 2004. I received a bureaucratic answer that rather suggested that the person who replied was handier with a rubber stamp than with a cup of compassion.

That a sixteen year-old allegation about a faculty member who resigned nine years ago remains very relevant at this late date is itself a sign that something is amiss. In my previous letter, I expressed concern that the University of California has failed to abide by principles of fair treatment in this case.

I do not know Dr. Khoury and am not employed by him. My interest in this matter grew from a report I received from the president of NAS’s California affiliate. I followed up by reviewing primary documents in the case, and four letters solicited from four of Dr. Khoury’s former UCR colleagues. They were all witnesses to what occurred during 2010-2011 and before.

The allegation that Dr. Khoury “double dipped” when he was on sabbatical at the European Business School (EBS) in 2004 was similar to previous allegations about an earlier sabbatical Prof. Khoury took at another university. The university lost that battle in court and settled with Dr. Khoury. Another red flag: the new university complaints were submitted after the deadline to the Committee on Charges in 2010, long after the three-year statute of limitation on bringing charges against any faculty member. Committee ruled unanimously in favor of Dr Khoury.

The Administration then appointed another committee and added some new charges, none of which was later claimed in any court. These new proceedings ended up focusing on the 2004 sabbatical. The university prevailed in the Federal Court. This is so despite a clear letter from the Dean of EBS showing the facts and that Dr. Khoury was not employed to teach a course and that the payment of $14,000 was to cover his expenses while in Germany.

Dr. Khoury retired from UCR in 2011, after an accident that left him with injuries that required surgeries on his neck and back.

Ignoring all of this, a committee of Regents met on January 18, 2012 after Dr. Khoury had fully separated himself from UCR, and decided to fire him. The lower court ruled that the firing was illegal. The court of appeal overruled the lower court and issued an “unpublished” opinion.

What can a disinterested observer make of this train of events? I have no access to the motives of the administrators, but they appear to have been extraordinarily determined to punish Dr. Khoury even after he retired. Possibly these actions were intended as a message to other faculty members who might be tempted to criticize administrative actions, as Dr. Khoury had. Or possibly this is an instance of an administrator attempting to settle a score. I can’t say, but I can say that the University of California Riverside has carried its vendetta against Dr. Khoury to the point of absurdity.

As I understand the most recent developments, the university collected $25,000 from Dr. Khoury as a final settlement.

There the matter could rest, except that a strong odor of misbehavior on the part of the university remains. The University of California’s safeguards intended to protect faculty rights in this instance failed. I write in the hope that senior administration can repair this in part by re-paying some Dr. Khoury’s legal fees. The man has been subjected to an abusive process that has cost him not only the $25,000 he paid to the university, but also his own legal costs. In addition his retirement has been unsettled by this extraordinary vendetta.

I am not attempting to negotiate on his behalf or to suggest the amount of compensation that would be proper. But without some such sign of good will, this case will remain a permanent stain on the university’s reputation for fair and respectful treatment of its faculty.


Peter Wood

Image: Amerique, Public Domain

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