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Medical School Professor Demoted

Investigation finds Dr. Ebadi created a hostile environment

The chair of the UND medical school's Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Therapeutics and a leading scientist in the field of Parkinson's disease research has been demoted after an internal investigation found he was too demanding of subordinates and created a hostile working environment.

Dr. Manuchair Ebadi was replaced Wednesday as chair of the department after a six-week investigation into the matter, according to Dr. H. David Wilson, dean of the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Ebadi will continue in his other roles as associate dean for research and program development, director of the UND Center for Excellence in Neuroscience and full professor.

"He is a very talented researcher and a very demanding worker," Wilson said of Ebadi. "He created an atmosphere in the department of anxiety and tension. He was pushy and overly demanding of faculty and staff and it created a hostile working environment."

Wilson said the investigation was initiated when two faculty members who work directly under Ebadi complained about his behavior. Wilson said sex or sexual harassment played no part in any of the complaints.

The two workers who brought the charges against Ebadi are said to be completely satisfied with the action taken by the medical school to remove him from a direct leadership position.

"I think he was not the appropriate leader for the department," Wilson said. "People were unhappy and they did not agree with his actions, nor did I -- so I replaced him."

The investigation was conducted by UND's Office of Affirmative Action.

Apology given

A two-year faculty member, Ebadi was replaced by Dr. Edward Carlson as interim chair of the department, effective immediately. Ebadi was not available for comment about the change in duties Wednesday.

Wilson said Ebadi was contrite when told Wednesday he would have to step down as head of the department. Ebadi apologized to the faculty soon after he learned of his demotion.

"He indicated that when a department is in disarray, it's the chairman's fault," Wilson said of Ebadi's apology. "He said he did not mean any harm, but he certainly caused harm."

Because of Ebadi's exceptional research background and capabilities, Wilson said at no time did he consider firing him.

"(Ebadi has) asked me several times if he should leave, and I told him no," Wilson said. "He just shouldn't work in a leadership capacity."

Wilson said the actions outlined in the complaints took place over six months to a year. Wilson said Ebadi's first year with the medical school was free of allegations of harassing behavior, but complaints did begin to surface in his second year.

Late complaints

Most troubling to Wilson, though, is that the accusers did not come forward with their complaints right away. They let matters worsen instead of using the school's established procedures for reporting harassment.

Wilson said that the school will begin a more focused effort to educate staff members about those procedures.

A native of Persia, Ebadi came to UND from the University of Nebraska's College of Medicine in July 1999. He is a leading Parkinson's researcher and has been filling a triple role as professor, researcher and administrator since coming to Grand Forks.

In his former position in Nebraska, Ebadi was selected 11 times to receive that school's Golden Apple Award, given annually for outstanding teaching. He won it so many times that he was inducted into the Golden Apple Hall of Fame.

Source: Grand Forks Herald July 12, 2001