Spanish architect Alejandro Zaera-Polo is filing a law suit against the current trustees of Princeton University, incumbent President Christopher L. Eisgruber, and Dean Kathleen Deignan.
Founder of London and New York-based Alejandro Zaera-Polo & Maider Llaguno Architecture (AZPML), and Foreign Office Architects (now no longer practicing), Zaera-Polo is also the former dean of Princeton’s School of Architecture.
Eisgruber asked to Zaera-Polo to resign in 2014 after he allegedly did not credit work done by the university for his exhibition on facades and its catalog at that year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, directed by Rem Koolhaas. [You can find coverage of the current 2016 Biennale here]
Now Zaera-Polo is claiming the university caused “substantial damage” to both his reputation and his firm, which subsequently led to him miss “lucrative and prestigious professional and academic opportunities.”
According to BDOnline, Zaera-Polo alleges that President Christopher L. Eisgruber’s insistence that he resign—which Zaera-Polo he described as “inexplicably urgent”—led to “false rumors of sexual or financial misconduct” being spread.
“Moreover Eisgruber and Prentice acted prematurely, negligently and/or recklessly in a manner that seemingly confirmed the widespread, false, and damaging public rumors concerning [the] plaintiff,” the papers read. “Defendants’ actions and failures to act have resulted in significant damage to plaintiff’s business and to his reputation, including the loss of lucrative and prestigious professional and academic opportunities.”
As a result, the Spanish architect is calling for “punitive damages” held against Eisgruber, Deborah Prentice (the current dean of the faculty), trustees, “John and Jane Does,” and 20 “other individuals who participated in, or were complicit with, the conduct complained of herein” (likely to be students and staff).
The papers filed at Mercer County Court in Trenton, describe the event as “an action for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, tortious interference with prospective economic advantage, trade libel, and defamation.”
In addition to this, Prentice reported the complaint to Koolhaas. Zaera-Polo, however, said that the work duly credited others in the footnotes of an academic version of the catalog. One anonymous source stated Zaera-Polo plagiarized Wikipedia.
The papers also state: “Adding insult to injury, defendants have fostered a hostile environment toward plaintiff at Princeton. For example, Princeton relocated plaintiff to a shared office in a basement, contrary to Princeton’s policy granting full, senior professors individual offices, generally on the ground floor. Princeton hired an alternate lecturer on building facades (plaintiff’s expertise) and scheduled that course to conflict exactly with plaintiff’s course on the same subject. Princeton even failed to list plaintiff’s course in its course catalog during spring 2015.”
Meanwhile Princeton University has said in a statement: “The university is aware that Professor Zaera-Polo has filed an action against it and others relating to the investigation and disposition of research misconduct claims asserted against him and to his resignation as Dean of the School of Architecture. As noted in the rules and procedures of the faculty, the ‘university is committed to high scholarly standards in the substance of research and to high ethical standards in the conduct of research’ and to the fair and unbiased adjudication of all misconduct complaints.
“The university is confident that the officials and faculty members who investigated and adjudicated the claims against Professor Zaera-Polo did so fairly and in accordance with university policies and procedures. The university will defend its position in court, and looks forward to the successful resolution of these claims.”