Sun-Times: Suit: Palestinian teacher's firing over alleged slur unfair

CAIR-Chicago is litigating this case on behalf of Ms. Smiley pro-bono

sun timesA Palestinian Muslim instructor filed a federal discrimination suit Monday against Columbia College Chicago, claiming she was fired after a student falsely reported she made an anti-Semitic comment in class.

Suriya H. Smiley is accused of saying to the student, “I should have known you were Jewish by the size of your nose,” the suit claims.

A teacher’s assistant and eight other students were present in class at the time and confirmed that Smiley never made the remark or any anti-Semitic statements, the suit said.

The suit alleges Smiley was treated less favorably than similarly situated employees who were not Palestinian or Arab when accused of “false allegations of misconduct,” the suit said.

Smiley was employed as a part-time faculty member in the Radio Department for 14 years, according to the suit. She was notified of the student’s complaint on Dec. 4, 2008, although officials would not give her specifics about the incident.

Despite no alleged evidence, the college refused to conduct an investigation into the student’s allegations and swiftly fired Smiley, the suit said. No witnesses were contacted or questioned.

After several meetings with school officials, she was told of the nature of the complaint when she met with officials and a union representative on Jan. 13, 2009, the suit said. She denied the allegations and asked if assistant provost Louise Love or department chair Barbara Calabrese had questioned other students. Love later claimed she could not involve students in the matter.

On the day after the meeting, Love sent Smiley a letter informing her of her termination, the suit said.

The three-count federal suit — which claims one count of national origin discrimination and two counts of race discrimination — seeks all wages and benefits she would have received, in addition to compensatory and punitive damages.

It also seeks to have Smiley returned to her former position or receive pay in lieu of reinstatement.

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