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SALT LAKE CITY — Two months after being fired over allegations of plagiarism, the former director of the University of Utah's Middle East Center has filed a lawsuit against one of the center's senior faculty.
Bahman Bakhtiari filed the suit Friday in 3rd District Court. Bakhtiari alleges that two senior faculty leaders at the center conspired to eliminate him after personality conflicts. He also alleges in the lawsuit that a senior faculty member, who was a former center director, lied about having a PhD from UCLA and that faculty conspired to cover it up.
Bakhtiari served as center director from July 2009 to June 2011. He was brought in from the outside by the Dean of the College of Humanities to replace an existing faculty member. The suit states that from the onset, Bakhtiari was disliked by senior center faculty and that the political science department, which oversees the center, refused to support his tenure. The suit states that the dean of the College of Humanities ended up granting him tenure through the Department of Languages and Literature.
Plagiarism "strikes at the very core of academic integrity." -U. president A. Lorris Betz
Last June, a U. faculty committee investigated complaints of alleged plagiarism against Bakhtiari. In a unanimous vote, the committee found that Bakhtiari committed "a pattern of plagiarism that is harmful to the university's academic integrity." The committee also unanimously recommended public reprimand, a one-semester suspension without pay, transfer to another unit within the university and retraction of publications containing plagiarized material.
Although the committee stopped short of termination and revocation of tenure, University of Utah Interim President A. Lorris Betz overrode the decision and terminated Bakhtiari on June 30. In a letter announcing the termination, Betz noted that plagiarism "strikes at the very core of academic integrity," and termination was the only way to "restore public confidence in the university."
Bakhtiari alleges in his suit that center faculty actively dug through his career history to find justification to get rid of him. According to U. documents, evidence of plagiarism was found in six scholarly publications, including Bakhtiari's 1984 PhD dissertation, an online newsletter and an op-ed piece published in The Salt Lake Tribune.
The suit states Bakhtiari is seeking damages for interference with economic relations, invasion of privacy, breach of contract and defamation.