Commit to a graduate student workplace environment that is free of bullying and harassment.

UW-Madison Chancellor Blank, Provost Scholz, University Committee Chair Warfield

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We, the graduate researchers of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, seek a workplace environment that is free of bullying and harassment. We are joined in this call from allied students, faculty, staff, alumni, and members of the greater UW-Madison community.

The UW-Madison community recently learned of the details surrounding the tragic death of electrical engineering graduate student John Brady in 2016 (Wisconsin State Journal). The Wisconsin State Journal investigation revealed abusive behavior and a toxic work environment created by John’s research advisor, Dr. Akbar Sayeed. Furthermore, the subsequent release of the internal investigation findings revealed Dr. Sayeed’s continuous intimidation of graduate assistants under his supervision, derogatory and threatening verbal abuse, and dysfunctional work environment led to rapid attrition of talent from his group over several years. For 3 years, UW-Madison failed to address, acknowledge, or disseminate information regarding the situation surrounding John's death. Despite the findings of the investigation, including the testimonies of 11 of his former students, Dr. Sayeed will return to the university in January 2020 after a mandatory two-year leave of absence.

The news of Dr. Sayeed’s return has caused deep concern about the safety of students on this campus. According to the University’s own policies, we believe Dr. Sayeed’s behavior was grounds for dismissal, and we are unsatisfied that this was not the punishment he received. The National Science Foundation terminated Dr. Sayeed's appointment shortly after being informed of Brady's death and the complaint against Dr. Sayeed. Reappointing Dr. Sayeed sets a bad precedent — that abusive behavior is tolerated and that student grievances, even when acted upon, will not protect future students from abuse.
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To: UW-Madison Chancellor Blank, Provost Scholz, University Committee Chair Warfield
From: [Your Name]

We, the graduate researchers of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, are petitioning for a workplace environment that is free of bullying and harassment. We are joined in this call from allied students, faculty, staff, alumni, and members of the wider UW-Madison community.

We, the undersigned,
+ condemn Dr. Sayeed’s past behavior and petition that he is prevented from returning to UW-Madison in any professional capacity.
+ recognize that Dr. Sayeed’s return sets poor precedent for the University’s response to such behavior and places an undue burden on the students and faculty forced to work with him in the future.
+ insist the university open a new investigation into Dr. Sayeed’s behavior and interview the many individuals who have come forward with information about Dr. Sayeed since learning of the initial investigation.
+ believe preventing Dr. Sayeed’s return to campus will show that UW-Madison is committed to both protecting and improving the graduate research workplace environment.

We insist that you respond to these demands to protect all students from future abuse, and to provide long overdue justice for John, honoring the impact he had on all of us in the department.