Ending a two-year long saga that brought the nuances of child pornography law and the complexity of Yale’s tenure system into stark relief, the Yale Corporation announced Monday morning that it has upheld the University Tribunal’s recommendation to fire former Saybrook College Master Antonio C. Lasaga and revoke his tenure.
After receiving the recommendation of a special four-member committee of the Corporation, Yale’s highest governing body, the trustees decided to “sustain the sanction” imposed by Yale President Richard Levin last month, senior Corporation fellow Kurt Schmoke ’71 said in a statement released Monday. The committee was charged with reviewing a written appeal from Lasaga of Levin’s decision to fire him. That appeal was the final institutional avenue open to Lasaga to preserve his employment, according to University policy.
Lasaga, a noted professor of geology and geophysics, abruptly resigned his mastership without explanation 29 months ago after FBI agents searched his Saybrook College residence. Last February, he admitted to downloading hundreds of thousands of computer files containing child pornography and possessing two video tapes showing a 13-year-old boy engaged in sexual acts in a Yale geology classroom and the Saybrook master’s house, according to court records. His guilty pleas were part of an agreement with prosecutors that recommended U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson sentence Lasaga to 11 to 14 years in prison.
“The Corporation has completed its review of professor Antonio Lasaga’s appeal of … [Levin’s] decision,” Schmoke wrote, and has agreed to uphold his decision “to revoke Professor Lasaga’s status as a tenured professor and to terminate his employment at the University.”
Lasaga said he may pursue options outside of Yale to challenge his termination.
“If an injustice has been made, I am free to pursue all the avenues available to have justice be done. … This will not go away. This will continue,” Lasaga said Monday from his home in Cheshire.
The decision was made final during the Corporation’s meeting last weekend, said Yale spokesman Tom Conroy. The Corporation has notified Lasaga of its decision, he said.
Yale Law School Professor Steven Duke, who is Lasaga’s attorney, said his client could approach the American Association of University Professors and register a complaint with them over the Corporation’s decision. The AAUP could look into the matter and determine whether Yale has respected academic freedom, Duke said.
Finally, Lasaga could also file a civil lawsuit against the University “to collect damages or perhaps be reinstated,” Duke said.
When he revoked Lasaga’s tenure nine months after he entered two guilty pleas, Levin acted on a recommendation of the University Tribunal, Yale’s highest disciplinary body. Lasaga then invoked his right to appeal the decision to the Corporation, which acted swiftly to terminate his employment.
Lasaga and Duke have long opposed such a decision because, they say, no court has ever convicted the former master of any crimes. Duke has also said the laws under which Lasaga tendered his pleas are constitutionally questionable.
“He remains, under the law, presumed innocent until and unless a judgment of guilt is pronounced by the court,” Duke wrote to the Yale Daily News in late March. “Since the pleas were tendered, the constitutionality of both of the statues upon which the pleas were predicated has come under serious attack, attacks which are still pending.”
— YDN Staff