Petition calls on UW-Madison to prevent return of suspended professor

Group says behavior was 'grounds for dismissal.'

More than 800 students, faculty, alumni and community members have signed a petition condemning a former University of Wisconsin-Madison professor’s actions and calling on the university to change its mind about bringing him back.

This comes after the UW’s engineering dean said Dr. Akbar Sayeed would come back to campus after a two-year suspension, this time doing administrative work in the dean’s office.

841 signatures and counting for a petition asking ⁦@UWMadison⁩ to prevent Dr. Akbar Sayeed from returning to campus after a 2y suspension due to his “hostile and intimidating behavior.” #News3Now

— Amy Reid (@amyreidreports) November 15, 2019

The petitioners said Sayeed should have been fired after the environment he created years ago that was uncovered after a student in Sayeed’s research lab killed himself.

Since the student’s death by suicide in October 2016, the UW investigated and suspended Sayeed, after finding he violated the university’s policy on hostile and intimidating behavior.

In January, Sayeed will be back on campus, but a petition from the labor union for UW graduate researchers hopes otherwise.

Hundreds have signed on, condemning Sayeed’s behavior and petitioning he not return to the UW at all.

“The news of Dr. Sayeed’s return has caused deep concern about the safety of students on this campus,” the union wrote in a letter preceding the petition. “We believe Dr. Sayeed’s behavior was grounds for dismissal, and we are unsatisfied that this was not the punishment he received.”

The petition also asks for a new investigation, which a spokesperson for the UW said won’t happen unless new allegations come up.

“A two-year suspension is a significant sanction,” wrote UW spokesperson Meredith McGlone in an email to News 3 Now. “In addition to the sanction, the provost required counseling for anger management and outside oversight and monitoring of the faculty member upon his return.”

Since 2016, the university has instituted new policies aimed at protecting its students, particularly graduate researchers. It’s hired more mental health providers and a prevention specialist.

The College of Engineering has hired an assistant dean of graduate affairs and started training all staff addressing hostile and intimidating behavior.

The dean of the college sent out a letter Thursday, saying Sayeed won’t be teaching for at least the spring semester, and will instead do administrative work in his office.

He said that assignment will remain until he, the department chair and provost have adequate measures to provide oversight and prevent potential harm to students.

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