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Students testify against St. John Fisher professor while others offer support

A hearing underway by the Tenure Termination Committee with determine whether Merouane Lakehal-Ayat retains the job he's held teaching finance for 32 years. Three students say he relied too heavily on teaching assistants but others are rallying to support him.

Pittsford, N.Y. - Two of the three students who lodged complaints against a popular professor and Fulbright Scholar will testify this week behind closed doors. A tenure termination committee is meeting to consider whether Merouane Lakehal-Ayat will retain the teaching position he's held at St. John Fisher for 32 years.

He's accused of "abandoning his faculty duties" by relying too heavily on teaching assistants.

"I'm just so personally outraged," said alum Tim Hayes. He was in his 30s when he enrolled in the finance program and stayed on to complete his MBS with distinction.

He points to the diploma on the wall in his office. "It's been there since day one. (This) falls directly in the face of everything the college stands for."

In 2017, a teaching assistant for Dr. Merouane, as he is known to students, said he was essentially responsible for creating the syllabus and exams and performing other core duties of a professor. He has since graduated. Two other students have joined in on the claims.

13WHAM News has obtained a job post for the finance department which spells out the duties of a faculty assistant. They include "preparing and grading quizzes," "recording grades," and "preparing assessment reports." Hayes says, given the complexity of these courses, "the notion that a teaching assistant could possibly deliver this coursework with the knowledge, understanding and rigor is patently absurd."

In an e-mail, President Gerard Rooney said "When students bring forth serious allegations, it is incumbent upon the administration to initiate a thorough investigation to protect the academic integrity of the college."

Yet there are questions whether the school is playing by their own rules. Dr. Merouane was suspended last November, banished from campus and his e-mail shut down. That appears to be a violation of Fisher's statutes, which allow suspension only if someone is, "an immediate harm to himself/herself or others."

"This is not a normal way someone is handled. Especially not a tenured professor of 32 years," said Dr. Tabassam Javed of the Islamic Center of Rochester. He says he tried to attend the hearing in support of Dr. Merouane, but was told it was confidential. He left along a letter stating his position.

40 former students have signed on to a letter asking President Rooney and the trustees to intervene.

Tim Hayes has written his own letter and plans to speak up with his wallet if Dr. Merouane loses his position. He said he would pull the financial gifts to the college that are part of his will and life insurance policies.

"They have a responsibility to the greater college community to make sure the college's reputation is maintained," he said.

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