Tien-Chien Jen, whose abrupt resignation in May as dean of the College of Engineering had some scratching their chins, has filed a civil suit against the university, claiming he was wrongfully terminated.
The 17-page complaint filed in Anchorage Superior Court June 24 asserts that Jen was denied procedural due process after being called to a meeting in the office of Provost Elisha “Bear” Baker on May 8.
The complaint states that in the meeting the former dean was accused of committing or intended to commit fraud by seeking dual reimbursement for travel expenses between UAA and the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, his previous employer.
It also states that Jen had reimbursed UWM at the time of the accusation.
The due process issues arise from claims Jen was not told beforehand what the meeting concerned, was not given written allegations before or during the meeting, and that “the meeting was conducted in a threatening atmosphere.”
The complaint goes on to say that the presence of a University Police Department officer “at … or in the vicinity of the meeting” created a punitive atmosphere heightened because of a family history of victimization by the Communist Party in his native Taiwan.
It also says that after tendering his resignation, Jen was immediately removed from campus with an “armed escort.”
In his written resignation, Jen forfeited his job as COE dean as well as a tenured position as professor of mechanical engineering, though he claims the university did not disclose this to him at the meeting. This amounts to a breach of contract according to the complaint.
Jen also maintains the university broke its promise to not intentionally “cause any injury to plaintiff’s reputation and community standing,” in a public email sent by the provost to faculty and staff May 13. The email said the dean’s resignation was agreed upon following a discussion between Baker and Jen of “some matters of concern.”
Lastly, a claim of relief for “retaliation” is made, concerning an incident two weeks prior to the meeting in which Jen “prevented the provost from dismissing another faculty member of Taiwanese descent,” after a civil engineering senior asserted the faculty member had spoken inappropriately to her.
Jen is seeking over $1 million in damages against the university for past, present and future lost income and pain, humiliation, suffering and loss.
He also seeks an injunction restoring him to the position of dean, or alternatively, of tenured professor of engineering.
The suit was moved by an attorney for UAA to U.S. District Court on July 23 and information regarding a possible trial was not immediately available.