Professor Accused of Coercing Foreign Students to Be Servants

November 20, 2018

The University of Missouri at Kansas City failed to stop a pharmacy professor accused of coercing international students from India to do personal chores for him such as busing tables at social events, taking care of his dog or houseplants, or bailing water out of a flooded basement, The Kansas City Star reported.

Students said they feared losing their visa status if they did not comply with the demands of the professor, Ashim Mitra. One student said that when he told Mitra he would not act as a servant, "he threatened to kick me out of the university and force me to lose my visa and lose everything."

The Star spoke to nearly a dozen former students as well as to former colleagues of Mitra’s who said they had seen students performing menial tasks off campus or heard students’ complaints. Another pharmacy professor, Mridul Mukherji, filed two lawsuits in Jackson County Circuit Court alleging that Mitra mistreated international students and that the university retaliated against Mukherji when he complained.

Barbara A. Bichelmeyer, UMKC’s provost and executive vice chancellor, said in written responses to the Star that the university investigated the complaint and "made repeated efforts to contact students identified by Dr. Mukherji at the time. However, no students substantiated the claims and thus no formal action could be taken."

Mitra issued a statement to the Star through his attorney denying the charges: “I have not required anyone to perform chores unrelated to their studies,” the statement said in part.

“I do not understand the suggestion that anyone was concerned with their visas being at risk. I have worked with over 60 graduate students attending UMKC on F1 (study) visas, and I am not aware of any of those students having their visa status challenged or revoked.”

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