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Race matters: A cautionary tale at UNH

In 2006, during a hiring freeze, the University of New Hampshire hired Roslyn Chavda to be an assistant professor of political science. How did it get around the hiring freeze? There are exceptions for hiring minorities, and Chavda is black. She also was a bad professor, a court has ruled. Over the last two years, UNH has learned the hard way about the perils of hiring based on politics.

By 2010, Chavda was getting awful student reviews. Students said she was a “terrible teacher,” rude and disorganized. Her supervisors also gave her poor performance reviews, and she failed to meet publishing expectations. Eventually her contract was not renewed, and she sued, claiming racial and sexual discrimination and wrongful termination.

Chavda produced no evidence to prove her discrimination claims, according to Judge Landya McCafferty of U.S. District Court for New Hampshire. “She was removed from the tenure track, by all accounts, for her shortcomings in teaching and scholarship,” McCafferty wrote. “All accounts” includes Chavda’s own accounts. She acknowledged that she did not meet expectations, McCafferty wrote, but blamed racial and gender discrimination for her poor performance.

McCafferty ruled against Chavda on Tuesday. The case is a solid win for UNH, but also a cautionary tale. Providing students with different perspectives is a worthy goal. Hiring professors based on their race, rather than their academic promise, is not.

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