NYU is facing another multimillion dollar lawsuit regarding the now-defunct Tisch Asia — former Tisch Vice Dean and Tisch Asia President Pari Shirazi is suing the university for defamation, breaching contract claims, violating disciplinary regulations and engaging in arbitrary as well as capricious acts.
The lawsuit comes in wake of former Tisch Asia students suing NYU on allegations that the university charged high fees without a quality education. They also claim that the professors were not knowledgeable about or connected to the arts industry.
On Tuesday, Oct. 24, the case Shirazi v. NYU et al. was reopened in the New York appellate court, as first reported by NYU Local, after getting dismissed in 2014. Shirazi alleged that the aforementioned claims happened in her firing from both administrative positions. The case is against the university, former NYU president John Sexton, Vice Provost of Strategic Planning Joseph Guiliano and Tisch Dean Mary Campbell.
“On November 11, I went to work and went into a meeting with my boss,” Shirazi said. “I went there and got the shocking news of ‘you’re no longer the president of Tisch Asia, you’re no longer the vice dean, but you’re a faculty,’ and I had no idea what they were talking about.”
Shirazi said that she was confused for days after the university accused her of embezzlement and later even fired her from her faculty position. Shirazi alleges that this was not allowed due to a negotiated set of procedures.
Jennifer Freeman, Shirazi’s lawyer, said that Tisch has certain disciplinary regulations that are agreed upon with its arts professors. Freeman said that none of the necessary procedures that are supposed to happen when a charge is filed were enacted with her client: giving a written charge, getting a hearing, knowing what the charges are and having a chance to respond.
“They violated their disciplinary regulations, and they also engaged in arbitrary and capricious acts,” Freeman said. “That means they treated one professor one way and her a completely different way, violating this arts policy document, and that’s what’s called technically an Article 78 proceeding, so it’s not a violation of the contract, but it’s a violation of their internal policy.”
Freeman said that Shirazi was in a five-year contract, but the university dismissed her within the first year. Shirazi said the university fired the head of human resources at the time, Katie Casey, after Casey unsuccessfully tried getting Shirazi to sign a statement that forced her to resign. Therefore, Shirazi said that she was very happy about getting heard and the attention that the case is now getting.
NYU spokesperson Matthew Nagel expressed discontent with the case being reopened in the New York appellate court.
“We are disappointed that the court did not sustain the dismissal,” Nagel said. “However, we remain confident that the university will prevail in the lawsuit.”
Shirazi said that the university terminated her because Tisch Asia did not align with the university’s global expansion vision. Tisch Asia was NYU’s first international expansion and degree granting campus outside New York, but it shuttered in 2011 for its unsustainable model: financially unstable, lacking a precedent and not situated in a prime location.
“Even now, I cannot believe something like this happened at a university, because it’s not like working with a big company that’s making millions and millions of dollars and has shareholders — it’s a university,” Shirazi said. “I’m very sad about Tisch Asia — not for me but for the arts — because it’s a wonderful place.”
Shirazi and Freeman now plan to prosecute the claims in court although there is no set date for that yet, since among many factors, the timeline depends on how complicated the case is and the judge’s decision.
Email Diamond Naga Siu at [email protected]