The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 44.0°F | A Few Clouds

Course 2 Instructor Sues Institute, Professor Over Alleged Mistreatment

By Zareena Hussain
editor in chief

In a letter addressed to Nam P. Suh, head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Professor Emeritus David G. Wilson has alleged MITof mistreating an instructor within the Mechanical Engineering Department.

Wilson had met with Suh on Feb. 10 to discuss a situation involving James Grinnell, an instructor who was hired by MIT in 1981 to teach 2.701, a drafting course in the Mechanical Engineering department.

Grinnell says that, while initially hired to teach a drafting course, he was later been forced to teach a section of 2.70 now named Design & Manufacturing I (2.007), a task normally reserved for Course 2 professors.

After one year teaching the course, Grinnell received the lowest evaluations of any 2.70 section instructor in the Course Evaluation Guide and asked that he no longer be required to teach the course. His request was not granted.

Grinnell was a shop teacher at Norwell Junior High School prior to coming to MIT and held a master's degree in education. He did not hold an engineering degree. In addition, Grinnell says he had not been strong in high school physics or calculus.

According to the initial job posting, the position which Grinnell ultimately took did not specify teaching a section of 2.70 as a responsibility.

Grinnell files suit

In 1994, Grinnel filed a civil suit against MIT and Professor of Mechanical Engineering Woodie C. Flowers, who had been in charge of 2.70 while Grinnell had been an instructor of the course, for discrimination, intentional affliction of emotional distress, and violation of a contract. The case is still pending.

In addition, to being denied his requests to no longer lead sections in 2.70, Grinnell had been denied pay in the summer of of 1992 for designs he had produced, according to Wilson's letter. Eventually, Grinnell was paid after Wilson had advocated on his behalf.

However in the course of filing suit, Grinnell allegedly suffered further discrimination.

"His paycheck was stopped without notice for one year from July 1994. He was denied unemployment compensation because MITstated he was still employed,"Wilson wrote in his letter.

Grinnell had filed a letter of resignation for one of his two posts that was ignored by the department, according to Wilson's letter.

According to the letter, Grinnell was also falsely accused by Suh of breaking into Mechanical Engineering headquarters to illegally copy his personal record.

Juliet Drennan, a secretary who worked in the headquarters at the time, said that when Grinnell asked for his personal record she allowed him to photocopy it after examining the contents and seeing that none were labeled secret.

"He thanked me and left the office. I had had no orders that the staff were not allowed to look at their own files nor did I ever receive such directives. I had been told very specifically that people were not allowed to look in other people's files. That was scarcely the case here," Drennan said in a letter to Wilson.

"I was really really shocked when I heard about what was happening to Jim at MIT, because I knew/know that much of the basis of the argument was false. I had been at MIT for five years and change before I moved to the Pittsburgh area. I must say that this dirty-dealing makes me ashamed to have worked so hard for one of the principal players," Drennan told The Tech.

Letter alleges Flowers perjury

The letter also alleges that Professor of Mechanical Engineering Woodie C. Flowers "has perjured himself at least four times in order, apparently, to deny justice to a nonfaculty subordinate."

In a signed affidavit filed in the civil suit, Flowers claimed that Grinnell was hired to teach both 2.70 and 2.701 a claim that Grinnell and Wilson both deny.

Flowers also claimed that he had originated Course 2.70 in 1972 in the affidavit, when in fact the course had been founded in 1970. Flowers did not begin teaching 2.70 until the 1974-75 academic year.

Wilson was prompted to write the letter in order to request that Grinnell's case be arbitrated

"[Grinnell] has offered to drop his suit against MIT totally if it agrees to take the case to arbitration," Wilson wrote.

The letter was also sent to Associate Mechanical Engineering Department Head Rohan Abeyaratne, Provost Robert A. Brown, Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow, Professor Woodie C. Flowers, Mechanical Engineering Administrative Officer Patricia A. McCosco and President Charles M. Vest.

Vest, Brown, and Flowers declined to comment citing MITpolicy. Bacow and Abeyaratne did not return phone calls.