A political science professor at the taxpayer-funded University of Illinois at Chicago is suing the school in federal court for discrimination in part because he claims that his bosses compelled him to teach statistics courses despite the fact that he is not qualified to teach statistics.
The professor, Seung-Whan Choi, says his superiors told him that his Asian heritage sufficiently qualified him to teach math, according to court documents obtained by The Chicago Tribune.
“Asians, especially Koreans, are very good at mathematics and statistics,” an unnamed University of Illinois at Chicago political science department official told Choi, according to the court filings.
Choi, a U.S. citizen who was born in Korea, also claims that his department supervisors discriminated against him and retaliated against him because of his race and national origin by unfairly ousting him from a plum tenure-track job in 2011 — and then re-hiring him some months later in an apparently diminished capacity.
The lawsuit alleges that his department bosses made him teach a Korean politics course despite the fact that he has no particular expertise in the politics of his birth country.
Choi also claims that didn’t get the raises he should have gotten relative to the raises his peers received.
Another of Choi’s claims is that, in 2015, the political science department chair, Dennis Judd, changed the grade of a student in one of Choi’s undergraduate courses without bothering to consult Choi.
Judd allegedly responded to Choi’s concerns by calling Choi “a foreigner” and said “that many Koreans are stubborn and do not understand American culture of compromise when dealing with their boss,” according to the court documents.
“They don’t like Korean-Americans,” Choi told the Tribune last week. “I’m supposed to be very submissive to the department head, who is white-American.”
Choi also described the politics with the University of Illinois at Chicago political science department as “bad and dirty.”
In the federal lawsuit, Choi is seeking unspecified damages because his professional future at the school is essentially over, he says, and because he has suffered high blood pressure, anxiety and stress-related problems.
Officials at UIC have not offered public comment about the lawsuit.
According to his website, Choi, he has been a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago since 2004.
His nine-page curriculum vitae indicates that has written and co-written a very large number of scholarly articles, books conference papers on a host of issues including terrorism, international politics and the vitality of democratic institutions. Some of his academic works focus on the Korean peninsula.
The political science courses Choi has taught include “Democracy, Terrorism, and Globalization,” “International Security” and “Seminar in International Relations.”
He received a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Missouri in 2002.
Choi receives many glowing appraisals from students at Rate My Professors.
“Whan is the bomb,” says one student. “I think he is one of the best professors because he is so genuinely interested in your success.”
“The best teacher I’ve ever had at UIC,” raves another student. “Really made me look at things from a different perspective on international security.”
“Mandatory attendance, weekly reading summaries, three papers and extra credit movie reviews! No exams!!!” enthuses a third representative student. “He can be slightly difficult when it comes to paper formatting and stuff but he definitely gives you second chances. Totally recommend him! TAKE THIS GUY!”