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One Indian named dean, another jailed in US

Debasis Chaudhuri, a visiting professor, has been sentenced to 60 days imprisonment for sexual assault, reports S Rajagopalan.
PTI | By S Rajagopalan, Washington
UPDATED ON APR 22, 2004 10:07 PM IST

It has been a week of mixed fortunes for Indian academics in the US.

One professor has been named dean of a top business school and another appointed provost of a reputed university, but a third has been ignominiously jailed for sexual assault.

Debasis Chaudhuri, a visiting Indian professor, has been sentenced to 60 days imprisonment after being arraigned for sexually assaulting a female student at the University of Nerbraska in Lincoln last October.

A professor of computer science, the 42-year-old Chaudhuri received the reduced sentence after he pleaded “no contest” to third-degree sexual assault instead of the more serious charge of first-degree assault, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail and a fine of up to $ 25,000.

The news of Chaudhuri’s sentence came on a day when the Indian American community otherwise had reasons to rejoice over two prestigious appointments: Ajay Patel as the new dean of Babcock Graduate School of Management, and Satish Tripathi as the new provost of Buffalo University.

Chaudhuri was relieved of his teaching assignment after he was arrested last October for “fondling” a female student who had come to his campus office to discuss her grades.

In earlier court documents, cited by the Daily Nebraskan, Chaudhuri had admitted to the assault, saying he had momentarily lost his mind because of the student’s “inappropriate dress”. He, however, pleaded not guilty to all the charges when he appeared in the court.

Subsequently, he agreed not to contest the lesser charge of third-degree sexual assault, reportedly admitting that he inappropriately touched the student because of the way she was dressed. Thereafter, a Lancaster county judge awarded him the lesser punishment.

Chaudhuri arrived in Lincoln last August on a nine-month teaching assignment, leaving his wife and child back in India. His visa expires in mid-May. His attorney has been quoted as saying that the case might have gone to trial if Chaudhuri was a US citizen instead of a foreigner on a limited visa.

For the Indian American community, the week’s positive turn came about with the Wake Forest University in North Carolina announcing the appointment of Patel, 45, as dean of the Babcock business school. He has been a member of the university faculty for 11 years.

Tripathi, the other Indian academician to share the honours, will take over as provost at the Buffalo University in the state of New York on July 1. He had been a professor of computer science for 19 years at the University of Maryland before moving over to the University of California seven years ago.

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