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Tenured Ohio professor sues to get job back

CINCINNATI (AP) — A tenured professor at the University of Cincinnati whose medical research is funded by millions of dollars in federal grants is suing the school, saying administrators violated his constitutional rights by effectively firing him after he rescinded his resignation.

Muhammad Ashraf, who had been a professor at Cincinnati's medical school for 35 years, said in court filings that he wanted to take back his June 5 resignation because school administrators declined to transfer grants from the National Institute of Health to his next job at a Georgia university.

Attorneys for the University of Cincinnati argued at a federal court hearing on Friday that Ashraf only wanted to leave because the school had launched an investigation into alleged academic misconduct against him.

Ashraf denies misconduct.

Ashraf's employment at the school ended on Thursday, the date he had given for his resignation to go into effect.

Friday's hearing centered on whether the resignation was valid. Federal Judge Timothy Black said the case is his top priority and that he expects to issue a ruling next week over whether to order the university to reinstate Ashraf's job as the court case proceeds.

Ashraf's attorney, Mark Mezivob, argued that the dean of the university's medical school didn't have the authority to accept Ashraf's resignation, and therefore it's invalid.

Doreen Canton, who is representing the university, argued that Ashraf properly and unconditionally resigned.

"He quit. He removed himself," Canton said, adding that the dean had every authority to accept it. "If anybody was underhanded in this matter, it was Dr. Ashraf."

Mezivob said with no job and no grants, Ashraf has been "left with nothing."

"Dr. Ashraf is aware of no one ... at the university who has the qualification, the know-how, to effectively and meaningfully take over these grants," Mezivob said. "He's the one who got the grants. He's the one who impressed the NIH with the prospects of success and the importance of these endeavors. No one else did that."

Ashraf said in court filings that he joined the university in 1978, was tenured in 1983 and has been researching the prospects of replacing damaged heart cells with stem cells with more than $20 million in National Institute of Health grants since 2000. When he resigned, he had been planning to take a job at Georgia Regents University, which has since rescinded its offer.

University of Cincinnati officials say in court documents that other staff members are qualified to conduct research funded by Ashraf's grants and that his return to the laboratory "will lead to confusion as to who is directing the staff" and "will cause irreparable damage to the research environment."

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