A white Texas Southern University physics professor is suing the historically black school for discrimination, saying he's been harassed, ridiculed and denied promotions, among other things.
Christopher Tymczak, who has taught at TSU since 2006, alleges that his continued persecution by his department chairman — who is black — has caused hypertension, severe depression, "excessive anger and irritability," and "Barrettes esophagus (a recognized pre-cancerous condition)."
Filed in a Houston federal court last month, the lawsuit seeks relief for damages to Tymczak's "personal and professional reputation; humiliation and emotional distress; serious injury to his health, and loss of enjoyment of life." But Tymczak told KHOU earlier this month that he's not motivated by money, saying that he wants to continue at TSU.
"I want [the discrimination] to end so I can go back to my teaching," Tymczak said. "I love teaching."
To bolster his allegations against Physics Department Chairman Carlos Handy, who is not a defendant in the suit, Tymczak cites other non-black faculty who witnessed, or were subject to, Handy's supposed racism.
And that's where things start to get ridiculous.
Tymczak cites Handy's mistreatment of a former physics professor of Chinese descent, Rambis Chu, saying Handy caused Chu's termination "by promoting and supporting accusations" that "were without any factual merit."
In truth, Chu was fired in 2009, after a university committee found that he had plagiarized work from a University of Houston professor in a grant proposal. But that didn't stop Chu from suing TSU in 2010, accusing Handy of calling him a "lazy Chink."
And while Tymczak holds out Chu as a fellow victim of racism, Chu's own lawsuit called Tymczak one of Handy's "cronies." Chu also questioned Tymczak's qualifications and claimed that Tymczak started off with a much higher salary.
"Tymczak had never been faculty and had no formal college teaching experience before his employment at TSU," Chu claimed. "He was hired as an associate professor with 9-month salary of $80,000." Chu claimed that Tymczak was one of two white physics professors who received preferential treatment, with Tymczak allegedly given a special research position that Chu had also applied for.
Former physics department program coordinator Clancy Weeks, a white ex-
faculty staff member who's also referenced in Tymczak's suit, told the Houston Press that Handy could be erratic and vindictive. Tymczak's suit alleges that Handy disparaged Weeks's "ability and performance."
Weeks, who said his position was terminated after budget cuts, said Handy "bullied" members of the committee that found Chu guilty of plagiarism, and that he also "tampered with a witness," by allegedly bullying the plagiarized University of Houston professor into testifying against Chu.
Chu had been a postdoctoral researcher for the professor, John Miller. Court records show that Miller initially called for Chu's resignation after he was discovered to have copied a chunk of Miller's paper without attribution, but subsequently chalked it up to miscommunication and cultural misunderstanding. Miller stated in an email that Chu "never had any intent to commit fraud or engage in unethical behavior." Ultimately, the university's committee disagreed.
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"He gets it in his head that people are out to get him," Weeks said of Handy. "He's had physical confrontations with students. He's dressed down teachers in front of their class...We're all amazed that he's still at the university, to be honest with you."
Tymczak's lawsuit also accuses Handy of making "an unsolicited and baseless public attack on the reputation" of engineering professor Rasoul Saneifard.
Saneifard declined comment and referred the Press to the university's general counsel. A TSU spokesman said he could not comment on pending litigation.
Things became stranger September 16, when Tymczak was charged with forgery, for allegedly forging a university human resources officer's signature on paperwork for a hardship withdrawal from his insurance policy. Court records do not indicate how much, if anything, was actually withdrawn. We have been unable to reach Tymczak for comment, but will update accordingly.