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UI professor at hearing: “I regret the day I set foot in that place”

Erin Jordan, CR Gazette –

UPDATE: A University of Iowa professor said his erratic behavior and unprofessional conduct can be explained by cultural differences and by the mental stress he suffered working at the UI.

A three-person judicial panel heard testimony and arguments Friday in a 2 1/2-hour hearing. They will make recommendations to UI President Sally Mason about whether Dr. Malik Juweid, a tenured radiology professor, should be disciplined for alleged behaviors including threatening coworkers and violating patient privacy laws.

Juweid appeared at the hearing via Skype from his home country of Jordan. Although mostly in shadow, Juweid’s verbal outbursts earned him an admonition early on from investigating officer Randall Ney.

“Big liar! Big liar!” Juweid shouted at Dr. Lois Geist, associate dean for faculty affairs in the UI’s Carver College of Medicine.

Geist had just testified that Juweid swore at her in a Dec. 5, 2011, phone call and hoped for her death.

“If I have to stop you again, we’ll hit the mute button until it’s time for you to talk,” Ney warned Juweid.

Members of the UI’s Threat-Assessment Team testified about meeting Jan. 11, 2011, with about 20 hospital employees who were bothered or threatened by Juweid’s behaviors. The next day, the UI put Juweid on administrative leave.

“I was hopeful you could come back to the university,” said Lt. Peter Berkson, a UI police officer and member of the threat-assessment team. “However, you continue to cause problems, send emails that are inappropriate, talk poorly about people, make what people consider threats. You said a number of times that you hoped people died horrible, terrible deaths.”

Wishing death upon someone is common in Arabic cultures and shouldn’t be taken as an actual threat, Juweid said.

“In Arabic countries, people would say ‘I hope God will take you’,” Juweid said.

Juweid asked Berkson why the team did not talk with him before putting him on leave. Berkson said Tom Rice, associate provost for faculty, told the team they did not need to interview Juweid.

Juweid faulted the team for giving credibility to coworkers Juweid had named in a complaint to the UI’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity.

Juweid is also suing the UI and numerous university officials in Johnson County District Court, claiming discrimination and retaliation by supervisors and colleagues. The UI denied the allegations.

Ney gave Juweid 10 minutes for his closing statements.

“You are free to kick me out, I am expecting that from you,” Juweid said. “I am a widely-respected scientist and I will find a job outside the United States. Racism exists at the university. I regret the day I set foot in that place.”

Toward the end of the 10-minute window, Juweid, who had warned his computer was running out of power, disappeared from the screen and the connection was lost. That was the last word for Friday, but Juweid and the UI has until July 9 to submit supporting documents. If Juweid doesn’t like Mason’s ruling, he can appeal to the state Board of Regents.

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