Controversial grad case comes to close

The University will award a master's degree to dismissed history graduate student Zihui Tang in December under an agreement reached with Provost Peter Lange, sources close to the situation confirmed Wednesday.

Tang, a history graduate student, was dropped from the Ph.D. program in June and has been appealing her case since then. After failing to receive a favorable decision from the Graduate School or the Office of Institutional Equity, she appealed to the Office of the Provost Sept. 3.

Lange and Tang both declined to comment for this story, citing a mutual confidentiality agreement. History Director of Graduate Studies John Thompson also declined to comment, citing the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act.

In documents filed with the provost, Tang alleged that her former advisor, Professor Sucheta Mazumdar, had violated federal law governing international student work hours. She also alleged race and gender discrimination against Mazumdar. Tang added that she believes her dismissal from the history department was retaliation for filing a complaint against the advisor.

Several student groups, including the Graduate and Professional Student Council, the Duke Chinese Students and Scholars Association and the History Graduate Student Association, expressed concern about the transparency of the process for graduate students to lodge complaints against faculty. Lange said Wednesday he still had full faith in the grievance procedures.

"They are entirely appropriate," he said. "I feel [graduate students' concerns] are misplaced. You always appeal to the person closest to the situation."

Lange added that students can act to change the procedures through GPSC if they feel the need.

In addition to the internal investigations, Mazumdar's attorney filed a civil complaint against Tang in Durham County court Oct. 17 for a no-contact order.

Tang said Wednesday Mazumdar first requested an out-of-court settlement and then dropped the complaint against her last Friday.

Judy Tseng, attorney for Mazumdar, could not be reached for comment Wednesday and it was unclear why Mazumdar dropped the complaint.

Tseng wrote in an e-mail Oct. 20 that Mazumdar was pursuing the order in hopes of stopping the flow of hate mail she has received in connection with Tang's case. "Prof. Mazumdar has faced considerable harassment lately, via e-mails and phone calls, including threats of assault and rape," Tseng wrote. "These are all from people claiming to support Zihui Tang and naturally reflects quite poorly of them. Some of her supporters have even called Prof. Mazumdar an 'Indian pig,' 'bitch,' and other vulgar slurs."

If granted, a no-contact order mandates that the defendant cease harassment and contact with the plaintiff. In this case, the complaint was filed against Tang because those contacting Mazumdar identified themselves as Tang's supporters.

"I've seen it myself in Wake County where the defendant did not actually contact the plaintiff but allegedly asked a relative to talk to the plaintiff and sent letters directed at the plaintiff to the plaintiff's attorney; in that case, the judge renewed plaintiff's 50c order," Tseng said.

According to an e-mail distributed Friday by DCSSA, Tang will also be paid a graduate assistant's salary for the Fall 2006 semester.


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