SPRINGFIELD -- A former professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield has claimed in a federal lawsuit that the school banned him from campus and denied him emeritus status because of his race and Iranian origin.
Ardeshir Lohrasbi, a U.S. citizen who taught business administration, was escorted from campus in December 2011 and given a "Notice of Trespass," the (Springfield) State Journal-Register reported Saturday (http://bit.ly/1lXHZz3 ). He was prohibited from teaching his classes the rest of the term, at the end of which he planned to retire.
In its answer to the lawsuit, UIS says Lohrasbi was banned because of a discussion in which he mentioned guns, not because of his ancestry.
Lohrasbi, an associate professor from 1980 to 2011 who received tenure in 1986, claims in the lawsuit that during a discussion about the death of a friend and colleague, he said that "sometimes people react to situations with guns and machine guns." The lawsuit says he was "referencing that sometimes people take their own lives by these methods."
The lawsuit does not say where the conversation took place.
Lohrasbi claims that university officials concluded that his comments were terrorist threats and launched an investigation because of his race and national origin.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued Lohrasbi a "right to sue" letter in January 2013, and the lawsuit was filed last year. A May trial is scheduled in U.S. District Court in Springfield.
Lohrasbi claims he was improperly denied the title of professor emeritus and its accompanying benefits, including an on-campus office and permission to teach three classes per year.
The university says the complaint was filed too late and that the lawsuit should be dismissed. Officials say he was not qualified to be given the title of professor emeritus.