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Posted on Tue, Nov 10, 2009 : 8:02 p.m.

University of Michigan whistleblower trial update, and community discussions on race

By Juliana Keeping

In local higher education news, the whistleblower trial for a former University of Michigan student continues. Later this week, U-M, Washtenaw Community College and other partners are hosting discussions on race. And a Washtenaw Community College student with Down syndrome works to bash stereotypes, the Livingston Daily reports.

University of Michigan

The civil trial for a former University of Michigan graduate student research student in the nuclear engineering program continues this week.

In court today, Robert McGee said his dreams for PhD research on a neutron generator he built were ruined after he reported his boss for safety violations in a lab and was subsequently fired.

"My plan to come back and work on my PhD, everything was completely ruined. It all went up in smoke," McGee told the jury in Washtenaw County Circuit Judge Archie Brown's courtroom.

His attorney, Christine Green, presented numerous e-mails to the jury to tell McGee's version of the events. McGee was appointed as a research assistant a semester at a time; he was told his services were no longer needed in a neutron science lab on Feb. 20, 2008, though salary, benefits and a tuition waiver were paid through the end of his appointment in April that year. He claimed he was stonewalled from continuing research under another professor in the department. McGee entered the program in 2004.

McGee is asking a jury to award unspecified damages from the U-M Board of Regents under the state's Whistleblower Protection Act for emotional distress.

U-M lawyers intend to prove all the allegations are false, including the alleged safety violations.

A string of missed deadlines soured the relationship between McGee and the professor who oversaw his assistantship in the College of Engineering long before McGee reported the safety violations, U-M lawyer David Masson said. McGee had a spotty academic record that included 11 incompletes, which put his future as a PhD student in question.

McGee today attributed those incompletes to raising two daughters as a single parent in the 1980s when he completed bachelor's and master's degrees in aerospace engineering at U-M. He blamed the missed deadlines to delays getting the necessary parts to finish a neutron generator.

The trial continues Thursday; jurors will hear testimony from McGee's wife, a U-M professor, a former colleagues and others before the defense presents its case.

In other U-M trial news, The Flint Journal reported a U-M Flint student says he was designated a threat for complaining about a B grade. Now he wants $40 million.

Washtenaw Community College, University of Michigan and other partners

Race and Reconciliation

A dialogue on race will take place this week, facilitated by Nontombi Naomi Tuto, the daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

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The program, Race and Reconciliation: A community conversation on race, will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the U-M Rackham School of Graduate Studies, 915 E. Washington St.; 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Towsley Auditorium in the Morris Lawrence Building at Washtenaw Community College, 4800 E. Huron Drive.; and 10 a.m. Sunday at First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor, 608 E. William, at the corner of State Street.

Discussions will include question and answer sessions with Tutu, who is a human rights activist and author, performances and the screening of "Long Night's Journey into Day," a film about post-apartheid South Africa.

For more details, visit:

To RSVP on Facebook, visit:

Washtenaw Community College

On an uplifting note, the Livingston Daily published a story on a Washtenaw Community College student with Down syndrome who works hard to shatter stereotypes.


Dr. I. Emsayin

Tue, Nov 10, 2009 : 10:35 p.m.

Read the article about the WCC student with Down Syndrome through the link. Expose your children to children with disabilities in a way where they can get to know them. Honor our townsfolk who are differently abled. Then get on with working on your racism, sexism, homophobia. Lots to do! Don't get stuck at your computer criticizing everything, let others waste their money and time, you've got a local world to take care of!