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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rivier grad student suing college, claims racial bias

NASHUA – A Rivier College graduate student is suing the college, claiming his race was the reason he was passed over for a math tutoring position at the school’s writing and resource center.

Sanjeev Lath, 34, a native of India who has lived in Nashua about eight years, claims in his suit that Rivier engaged in discriminatory hiring practices last year when it hired a Caucasian woman “with lesser experience and education” than Lath.

J. Daniel Marr, the lawyer representing Rivier College, flatly rejected Lath’s claims and said the suit is without merit. Marr, who writes a business column for The Telegraph, plans to motion for dismissal as soon as he is served with the suit.

Lath’s resume states he holds a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Texas A&M University, is currently working toward a master’s in business administration at Rivier and has two years experience teaching and tutoring math. Lath further accuses the college and writing center director Leslie Van Wagner of having a history of favoring Caucasian applicants.

“They hired a woman with lower qualifications than I have,” Lath said Tuesday. “They told me they hired the woman because her tutoring experience is current, and mine is nine years ago. But that shouldn’t matter. There’s a trend in that department of only hiring Caucasians.”

In addition to citing jurisdictional issues, Marr counters Lath’s claim that the woman was hired because she is white, and reiterates the college’s statements to Lath that the woman was chosen over him because she had current and ongoing experience tutoring middle and high school age students.

“His experience tutoring is two years, and it was nine years ago,” Marr said.

Marr is also skeptical of Lath’s insistence he encountered hardship – that he “suffered and continues to suffer substantial damages, including lost income and benefits, damage to his reputation and career and emotional distress,” according to the suit.

“Mr. Lath was applying to be a tutor,” Marr said, a position not typically associated with gainful employment with benefits.

Lath said he applied in late July 2011 for a graduate teaching position in mathematics, which had been posted on Rivier’s website. The school acknowledged it received his application materials, Lath said, and he noticed in late August the position was no longer on the website.

Lath, saying he “felt discriminated” against in the process, asked Sister Therese Larochelle, Rivier’s vice president of academic affairs, and Sister Paula Buley, college president, to investigate the college’s hiring practices.

Larochelle responded about two days later, Lath said, telling him the successful candidate was an “outstanding (graduate) student” whose ongoing involvement in tutoring made her the ideal candidate.

In early September, Lath filed discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He withdrew the charges March 3, but didn’t elaborate on the reason.

Lath is defending himself and said his suit is aimed, in part, at getting the word out.

“I want (people) to hear my side of the story,” he said Tuesday. “I may not win (the suit) but I will have a voice. I want justice.”

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com.