Tuesday , 26 March 2019

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Suit accuses Weber State of discrimination against Muslim faculty member

The suit accuses Weber State of discrimination against the Muslim faculty member
Tauriq Hussain Shah said his supervisor called Muslim prayer rugs “flying carpets,” complained about Ramadan and allowing prayer breaks, and once said he planned to have a “come to Jesus or Allah or whatever he believes in or Abraham meeting” with a Muslim student.

“Weber State did not discriminate in this case, an opinion which has been upheld twice by the Utah Labor Commission,” said Allison Barlow Hess, university spokeswoman.

Racial demographic data obtained by the Standard-Examiner with a public records request shows 90 percent of Weber State’s 610 faculty members are white, up about 1 percent from 2017. Similar numbers were reported for the previous three years.

The school added 15 white and one African American faculty this year and was down a combined five Hispanic, Asian and American Indian faculty.

The student body is 78 percent white.

Records officer Ron Smith said the university does not track faculty or student religious affiliations.

In his lawsuit, Shah, who said he has brown skin, said trouble began when he was teaching a group of visiting students from Saudi Arabia in 2012-13.

His supervisor, head of the Emergency Care and Rescue Department, “exhibited hostility towards these students because they came from a predominantly Muslim country, they requested time to pray, etc.,” Shah’s lawsuit said.

Shah was hired in 2010 as an adjunct faculty member, teaching emergency care and rescue in the College of Health Sciences. In 2013 he became a full-time instructor, according to the suit, which was filed Aug. 29 in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City.

Shah said he repeatedly complained to the health sciences dean, Yasmen Simonian, that the department head, Jeff Grunow, had made “disparaging comments towards Muslims and non-white individuals.”

Grunow referred to one student by his skin color, “our African-American paramedic student,” Shah alleged.

Shah said he detailed complaints in an email to Simonian in November 2014 and Grunow soon began behaving “coldly” toward him.

Grunow and Simonian told Shah on April 2, 2015, that his contract would not be renewed for the following school year, the suit said.

Grunow has retired and Simonian remains the health sciences dean, Hess said.

Efforts to contact Grunow and Andrew Stavros, Shah’s attorney, were unsuccessful.

Shah’s suit cities Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

In his complaint to the Labor Commission prior to the lawsuit, Shah said Grunow told the Muslim students that “Allah can wait until after class,” and he refused to allow them prayer time. Shah also said Grunow said “prayer to me and anything having to do with Ramadan or fasting was a pain in (my) ass.”