Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Board of Trustees fires tenured professor for cause

February 14, 2020
<p>Former professor Selman Akbulut pictured at a Board of Trustees meeting in October, 2018. </p>

Former professor Selman Akbulut pictured at a Board of Trustees meeting in October, 2018.

Photo by Mila Murray | The State News

The Trustee Committee on Academic Affairs recommended a tenured faculty member be dismissed during Friday's Board of Trustees meeting.

Selman Akbulut — a former professor of mathematics in the College of Natural Science at Michigan State University — was dismissed after he refused to teach a class.

The university withheld part of his salary after his refusal to teach MTH124 during the spring semester of 2015.

In a letter of reprimand, it says that 10% of his salary was withheld. By failing to teach the class, he was in violation of MSU's Code of Teaching Responsibility.

In the original agenda, Akbulut was referred to as Professor X.

Akbulut said he refused to teach the class because a different graduate-level class he taught was canceled "wrongfully."

This isn't the first time Akbulut spoke at a board meeting, he's long accused the Michigan State Department of Mathematics of discrimination.

At the meeting, a colleague of Akbulut's in the mathematics department Michael Shapiro, spoke on his behalf.

"Professor Akbulut has worked in the mathematics department at MSU for nearly 40 years," said Shapiro. "He is a world famous mathematician known for his significant contribution in topology and I personally think that this sizably damages the morale of the math department and you'll harm the reputation of the (MSU) Department of Mathematics and MSU as a whole for many years."

Tenured faculty have protections, meaning that if they are to be dismissed — or fired — it requires a longer process. Throughout the case, there were seven different court hearings, according to the link posted from Akbulut's Twitter.

Akbulut requested an administrative review of the discipline and file agreements with faculty agreements, but the grievance was dismissed.

"The professor then began to undertake a campaign directed against the individuals who were involved in review. ... In November of 2017, he was notified that he should not continue the emails and that he should remove them from the university's computer materials," trustee chair Dianne Byrum said. "He refused to do so. Accordingly in January of 2018, he received a notice of intent to impose a written reprimand."

The Board of Trustees voted 7-0 to dismiss Akbulut because of policy violations.

Correction: this story was updated to change the College of Natural Resources to College of Natural Science

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