Former engineering dean sues Cal Poly and Karen Velie

December 15, 2010

Mohammad Noori

By DANIEL BLACKBURN

A former Cal Poly dean of the College of Engineering has filed a lengthy lawsuit naming the California State University Board of Trustees, Cal Poly, journalist Karen Velie, and others, citing a dozen allegations including racial and religious discrimination, defamation and wrongful termination.

In an action filed Dec. 7 in Los Angeles Superior Court, Mohammad Noori, 57, said his complaints centered around his unsuccessful efforts in 2008 to assist a Saudi Arabia university in starting an engineering program. Noori also named as co-defendants Cal Poly’s Provost and Vice-President of Academic Affairs Robert Koob, engineering professor Unny Menon and blogger Roger Freberg.

He seeks reinstatement by the university to his previous position and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for alleged losses of income. Noori was hired as the College of Engineering dean in 2005 and demoted in June 2010.

Noori’s attorney says in the lawsuit, “In the fall of 2007,…as negotiations with the University of Saudi Arabia prolonged, a series of racial and defamatory attacks on Noori began by Freberg and Velie, which appeared on their respective websites. Menon provided internal materials to Freberg and Velie.”

Both Freberg and Velie said they stand by their articles which are still available on the web.

The Saudi proposal was controversial because it appeared to limit in a discriminatory manner those who could participate. CalCoastNews reported on February 14, 2008 in an article headlined: “An intriguing Cal Poly/Saudi project if you’re not a woman, Jewish or gay.”

The article details “a proposed Cal Poly agreement to develop an engineering program in Jubail from which women, Jewish people and gays would be excluded. The controversial co-venture pits a department head and a handful of administrators backing the project against an apparent majority of the Engineering College faculty.”

The issue was also covered by the Los Angeles Times and NPR’s California Report.

The website, in an June 10, 2008 article headlined “Cal Poly’s controversial dean of engineering dismissed,” reported: “After years of controversy, high staff turnover and faculty discontent, Mohammad Noori, the controversial dean of Cal Poly’s College of Engineering, was asked last week to step down as the head of the university’s most prestigious college, CalCoastNews has learned.

“The move caps more than two years of maneuvering by faculty and department chairs within the Engineering College over how to deal with the increasingly unpopular Noori. “Dissatisfied critics said Noori’s inability to manage budget deficits, a seemingly lack of leadership for such an important academic unit within Cal Poly and his failed plan for a proposed partnership in 2008 with an engineering school in Saudi Arabia project led to growing calls that he be fired. CalCoastNews learned that Cal Poly’s interim provost Robert Koob met with Noori last Thursday and told him he had to step down.”

The article further reported that “prior to being hired at Cal Poly, Noori served as the mechanical and aeronautical engineering department head at North Carolina State University from 1999 to 2004. The administration forced Noori to step down as department head due to reported widespread dissatisfaction with his performance.”

Noori noted in his suit that he had been assured his proposed dismissal would be confidential until he was allotted more time to state his position. The next day, he said Velie arrived at his office and requested an interview about his dismissal.

Freberg,  who writes a popular blog that often reports on Cal Poly occurrences, was alleged by Noori to have caused “defamatory articles, blogs to appear against the plaintiff (Noori), including one which showed Osama Bin Laden’s head placed on a Cal Poly jersey.”

“I used it as a metaphor for Cal Poly’s proposed relationship with Jubail University in Saudi Arabia,” Freberg said. “It is sad, this is someone who doesn’t understand free speech and obviously wants to strike back at all those who disagree with him.”

Noori also alleged retaliation, failure to prevent discrimination; breach of contract; negligent interference with economic advantage and intentionally inflicting emotional duress.

Noori was told to step down in June 2010, about six months before he would be vested in his state retirement. Cal Poly officials said he would join the faculty and teach mechanical engineering.

He has been on leave from the university since June. In the lawsuit, Noori claims venue in Los Angeles County is proper because he either lives in, or is doing business, there.

He is currently slated to teach at Cal Poly in the spring.

At an Academic Senate Executive Committee meeting, Norri told attendees that he was not Muslim. In the lawsuit, he claims he is.

Noori is represented by Charles Mathews of The Mathews Law Group, San Marino.

Daniel Blackburn, editor of KCCN.tv, can be reached at djblackburn@charter.net


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67 Comments

  1. Maxfusion says:

    One question, is CAIR in any manner involved in this suit. Demand this cretin disclose his funding. I think you’ll be surprised. It’s not the rock, it’s what’s under it.

    (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
  2. jimmy_me says:

    Cal Poly… so massively corrupt that you could write an article about it every day and never run out of material. Noori suing? That’s how it works at Cal Poly. Unethical people are hired or promoted into high position and then they do all they can to protect their illusions of power. The best way to piss off these tyrants is to publicly speak the truth. I’m sad for the reporter and everyone else who knows the sorts of garbage that goes on at Cal Poly and are bold enough to say something. It’s the system in action: the result of this lawsuit is going to be less people willing to speak the truth because of fear of lawsuits or unemployment. Possibly the worst part of this is all the people who work the system by stroking the empowered ones and get away with the rewards; the entire Dean’s office is full of these people. Those who are employed at Cal Poly, particularly people involved with CENG know exactly what I’m talking about.

    (11) 17 Total Votes - 14 up - 3 down
  3. Cindy says:

    “At an Academic Senate Executive Committee meeting, Norri told attendees that he was not Muslim. In the lawsuit, he claims he is.”

    Check out this post by StangSally at the Tribune: LOL
    “Typical error-ridden article. As a friend of the family, I can vouch for the fact that Dr. Noori is not a Muslim. Why do we automatically assume that folks from the Middle East are Muslim?”

    LOL again, I let them know why people think he is a Muslim, I take it that the Tribune read the law suit ..

    (7) 11 Total Votes - 9 up - 2 down
    • willie says:

      “Why do we automatically assume that folks from the Middle East are Muslim?”

      Virtually everyone (no matter what race or background) in the US is proud to be associated as a Christian.
      Anything else is at risk being suspected and labeled demonic or a cult.
      If you’re mid-east, I think it is normal (although not wholly true) with some people to associate your culture as a Muslim and there is nothing wrong with it., however current war times and terrorist threats may cause some people to diligently suspect mid-east folks as Muslim and this paranoia can be offensive.
      No matter what your descent is, I don’t think anyone likes being stereotyped unless it aligns you with something that is respected or royalty.
      Personally I think the heart of Norri’s problem and solution is with CalPoly and I feel sorry for him convoluting his law suit.

      (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
  4. rogerfreberg says:

    Let me help here.

    Few cases – if any – are resolved in the court of public opinion. These things take time. I am very comfortable with the truth of which I have reported and I am sure Karen Valie is as well.

    Unless you have ever been involved in litigation, it can seem quite daunting and to some very stressful. The underlying wisdom is to know whether you stand on solid ground legally and have a good idea of your probability of success in pursuing or defending yourself. I know one person who isn’t looking at the world honestly.

    I share concern for Karen Valie, but I am not sure it is completely necessary. Someone once told me, you really never become a journalist until you have been sued three times… any less and you aren’t doing your job. BTW, I never met a journalist who hasn’t had at least pro-bono representation; so, attempting to sue a journalist is seldom effective even if the goal is to try to punish them by drawing down their finances.

    Lastly, many people don’t realize that although you can attempt to sue almost anyone for anything, there can be significant financial consequences trying to sue someone and then losing.

    Roger Freberg

    (21) 29 Total Votes - 25 up - 4 down
    • Cindy says:

      “BTW, I never met a journalist who hasn’t had at least pro-bono representation;”
      True and most good attorneys do some pro-bono work. Protecting freedom of information is a staple of the American Way. Hear that Noori?

      (6) 16 Total Votes - 11 up - 5 down
    • willie says:

      Ethnic (superficial factor) or personal feelings (underlying – motive) of, will vary from person to person.
      Case and point “Glenn Beck” had been insinuated, called and accused of the most aweful things you think of and have a very good sense of truth/ perspective/ humor about it knowing anywhere from 1 out of 6 to 10 people is not going to like what he say (opinion base)!
      Ronald Regan is another example of the same under political and public scrutiny (and provides truth/ humor about it openly when somebody don’t like what he say or challenge his position).
      The ethnic card is a superficial factor to consider but “underlying (individual)” is the “real” motive.
      I don’t think Mohammad Noori has the confidence to stand alone or hold up on his own (not w/o a whole lot of soul searching or rehersal) in court or on a radio (wide varied open public forum and examination) talk show, so he pays a pro to do it and get over by any means.
      But without a doubt, being subjected to litigation is daughting or haunting to a person’s life, it constantly lingers in the back of the mind and craves for closure.

      (1) 9 Total Votes - 5 up - 4 down
      • willie says:

        And Mohammad Noori is the type (Arrogant outside, miserable and weak inside) who would choose way i.e. to make you squirm like a worm or kiss up to him as a god.

        (5) 13 Total Votes - 9 up - 4 down
        • willie says:

          Honestly
          I think that if Dean Noori (a former member of this “small” community) would have participated in this forum from the beginning and fended for himself constructively, knowing that some will agree and disagree, he could restore or retain his respect but I don’t think this is his “way(s)” of doing things nor his underlying intent, thus I hope he never comes back.

          (3) 11 Total Votes - 7 up - 4 down
  5. Paperboys says:

    Karen better get herself a lawyer. Even if she did nothing wrong or can claim Free Press, or privilege, it’s still going to cost money just to get dismissed from a lawsuit. And when you’re claiming things like defamation of character and breach of confidentiality, the judgments are usually enormous.
    So anyone with even a remote connection to Cal Coast News better start circling the wagons and protect yourselves.
    Noori will probably force Cal Poly into a settlement and walk away with a nice chunk of change.
    But if this actually goes to trial, that’s when we’ll see how tough Karen really is; when they put her under oath and demand the names of her sources. Since he’s claiming a breach of a confidentiality, she could be ordered by the judge to give up the names, too.
    In any way you slice this, it’s going to cost CCN some money, or hope they have pre-paid legal…

    (-5) 15 Total Votes - 5 up - 10 down
    • Waterman says:

      Then its time for a legal defense fund for Karen and CCN. Allow me to be the first however we do this. I pledge $100, out do me somebody :)

      (5) 15 Total Votes - 10 up - 5 down
      • Nancy says:

        Noori and his joke of an attorney is looking for some nuisance money. I sure hope Cal Poly doesn’t give him any. As for the press, they will be easily dismissed from this case in my opinion.

        (9) 17 Total Votes - 13 up - 4 down
    • Cindy says:

      This suit isn’t going to go anyplace, it has no standing and Noori’s claims are unfounded. That freak sent an e-mail to all the Cal-Poly faculty accusing Roger of printing that Noori was teaching terrorism in the COE! Go back and read the stories that Karen and Roger wrote and take a look at an excerpt of his (Noori’s) e-mails, it will make you laugh. He will be lucky if he doesn’t get sued with a cross complaint for frivolous litigation and end up having this all backfire on him and his wallet.
      Right now he has to come up with the legal fees to re-file his complaint in the proper venue, which doesn’t say much for his attorney’s. I wonder how many he approached to find someone to even file his case? This is going to cost that idiot a bundle. No doubt that CCN has it covered and this is a joke to them.

      (9) 19 Total Votes - 14 up - 5 down
  6. Moderator says:

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    (-4) 6 Total Votes - 1 up - 5 down
  7. jimmy_me says:

    No matter what you say about Noori, let’s not forget that Cal Poly has serious racial and gender issues. A seriously high percentage of Cal Poly leadership is white male. Noori definitely had his issues, but being non-white and non-western, certainly did not help his cause out there in lily-white-male-calpoly-engineering-land. On the other hand, I was glad to see Cal Poly brought in a female to interview for the president position; token that she was, at least it was a step in a better direction.

    (-24) 42 Total Votes - 9 up - 33 down
    • willie says:

      I agree with you.
      CalPoly is Mohammad Noori’s original problem, the media CCN is what it is, just news!
      It the problem revese itself with Calpoly, then the media CCN does what it does and report the twist!
      From what I recall, there is no true legal nexus of CCN connected to Noori’s original problem.
      CCN is just an easier “visible” scapegoat in lieu of the original and difficult problem.
      Lawyers generate their own business, the minute one starts an action, the other side necessitate legal counsel, what a hell of a business.

      (3) 13 Total Votes - 8 up - 5 down
    • Citizen says:

      Actually, being of Middle Eastern descent did help Noori push this proposal as far as it got. If Charlie Reed had been awake (asleep at the wheel as usual), he would have stopped a state university in the CSU system from making a deal with a foreign university using taxpayer money for a program that would have excluded women, gays, and Jews from participating either as faculty or as students. The key is California taxpayer money. CSU Dominguez Hills tried something similar with a proposed satellite university in Israel whereby CSUDH had money transferred (against state law) directly from the state of California to a foreign country. As a result, CSU Dominguez Hills had to borrow money from CSU Fullerton to complete the academic year and the President had to step down.

      Then Cal Poly President, Warren Baker, seeing possible fame and money, thought Noori had the ability to produce the project because of his knowledge of and ties to Saudi Arabia. If some bozo from Montana or California had made the same proposal, this ridiculous scheme would never have been considered. Cal Poly should thank its faculty and administrators who had the common sense to recognize that the Jubal experiment was an inappropriate use CAlifornia tax payer money and beyond the scope of the CSU.

      (13) 21 Total Votes - 17 up - 4 down
    • PaulJones says:

      Noori removed every ranking female that worked in the college of engineering. Woman were not allowed to question or debate Noori. To appear that he wasn’t bigoted, he then promoted two low ranking, compliant, administrative females who worked in his office and gave them unprecedented salary increases. Noori was part of the problem. This had nothing to do with too many white men as we saw that he had the same problems in SC.

      (16) 26 Total Votes - 21 up - 5 down
  8. danika says:

    Why isn’t this story on Daniel Blackburn’s website, KCCN.TV ?

    (2) 8 Total Votes - 5 up - 3 down
    • Cindy says:

      I think Dan Blackburn is more about doing video. Since this story includes Karen Velie (which is a first I think) Blackburn wrote it so that she wouldn’t be writing a story that is partially about herself. That would be my best guess.

      (1) 7 Total Votes - 4 up - 3 down
    • Moderator says:

      Oh look there it is ! :->

      (-3) 5 Total Votes - 1 up - 4 down
  9. azuresees says:

    Must be a weird experience to use the very system your deplore to your own benefit…Jusy sayin’…
    Actually can’t wait for the takeover. Lawsuits wil be a thing of the past in your world, eh ese?

    (10) 12 Total Votes - 11 up - 1 down

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