ISU in court over racial lawsuit

Tracy Deutmeyer

After a court hearing yesterday, Iowa State officials are hopeful the courts will dismiss a racial discrimination case filed by an ISU professor against the university, according to Paul Tanaka, head of of University Legal Services.

Dr. Yosiya Niyo, a professor of pathology in the College of Veterinary Medicine, filed a lawsuit against ISU on Dec. 24, claiming the “university performed a biased, incomplete and careless investigation of a graduate student complaint.”

According to a copy of the lawsuit, which was also filed against Richard Ross, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, and ISU President Martin Jischke, the university claimed Niyo sexually harassed a graduate student. However, Niyo denies any allegations of sexual harassment.

The investigation was performed by David Torres, the former head of affirmative action at ISU.

The university found probable cause that Niyo did sexually harass the student, according to the lawsuit.

“We don’t think the lawsuit is appropriate and we want to dismiss the case,” Tanaka said.

Tanaka said the university brought the dismissal charges to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa in Des Moines yesterday. He said the court should make a decision within a few weeks.

Niyo is one of two full professors at ISU that are black, according to the lawsuit.

ISU has recommended that the plaintiff should suffer 11 disciplinary actions, including a one-year suspension without pay, a demotion to associate professor and total exclusion from his accuser’s program of study.

Niyo claimed in the lawsuit that the recommendations for him are much harsher than those similarly situated Caucasian males have received for allegations of sexual harassment, which, Niyo said, were much more serious than those against him.

He also claims his race was the motivating factor behind the defendants’ acts. He claims because of ISU’s acts and omissions, he will suffer damages including irreparable harm to his livelihood, career path and professional reputation.

Niyo and his attorney, Alfredo Parrish of Des Moines, were not available for comment.