Indian American professor used Indian students as “slaves”

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Ashim Mitra (Courtesy: University of Missouri-Kansas City)

After filing a lawsuit against Ashim Mitra, a top Indian American researcher at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, in 2016, Mridul Mukherji, one of Mitra’s colleagues, filed another one this year claiming that Mitra mistreated vulnerable foreign students while the university retaliated against him when he complained about it.

According to an investigation by the Kansas City Star, many Indian students worked as servants for Mitra outside of the university realm and although many were afraid to speak up about it, Kamesh Kuchimanchi described some of the tasks that were given to them.

While some of Kuchimanchi’s tasks included cleaning up water from Mitra’s basement after a flood and serving food at his Indian cultural celebrations off campus, other’s tasks were: bringing equipment and tables to and at his social events, as well as tend his lawn, look after his dog and water the house plants for weeks at a time when he and his wife were away.

If the students refused to do the task then he would threaten them by saying that he would not let them graduate, have them thrown out of the university and have their visas revoked so they would have no choice but to return to India empty handed.

Kuchimanchi called it “slavery.”

Even Mitra’s former colleagues witnessed the students performing these menial tasks off campus and heard their complaints as well.

Some of them even told Mitra that what he was doing was inappropriate, but nothing changed.

To make matters worse, the university also knew about the professor’s behavior yet never did anything about it as Mitra was one of the most successful faculty members and brought in millions of dollars in research for the school.

Indeed, Mitra was a professor whom students from all around the world, admired and desired to have as a mentor.

According to the Kansas City Star’s report, Mitra earned his doctorate at the University of Kansas and began his career at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

He then began building his reputation as someone who excelled at convincing the government to fund his research projects at Purdue University.

He was hired as the chair of UMKC Division of Pharmaceutical Sciences in 1994, where he obtained many successful grant applications and patents, earning him the title of a prestigious professor.

Federal recoerds show that Mitra eventually secure more than $8.5 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health, alone, for UMKC and the money has been used to sustain successful Ph.D. programs in the life sciences.

Mitra lives a large house on a two acre lot overlooking a lake in south Overland Park, with his wife, Ranjana, who is also a UMKC employee.

The first of the two lawsuits filed by Mukherji; is set for trial next September.

Meanwhile, the University of Missouri System adopted a new set of Standards of Faculty Conduct for all four of their campuses, in which it states that faculty must “avoid exploitation, harassment or discriminatory treatment of students.”

The document was written with the help of Barbara A. Bichelmeyer, who replaced Gail Hackett as provost in 2015.

On the other hand, Kuchimanchi, who now works for a pharmaceutical firm in Boston, left Kansas City 16 years ago and promised himself he would never return, though he did to give a deposition for Mukherji’s lawsuit.

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