Yale President Richard Levin has fired former Saybrook master Antonio C. Lasaga, who pleaded guilty to two federal child pornography charges in February 1999, and has revoked his tenure, Levin said in a statement Sunday.
Levin was acting on a recommendation of the University Tribunal, Yale’s highest disciplinary body, and Lasaga has invoked his right to appeal the decision to the Yale Coporation. The dismissal will not take effect until the Corporation completes a review.
“Professor Lasaga has now notified me that he is exercising his right to appeal my decision to the Yale Corporation,” Levin said in a statement issued to the press yesterday explaining Lasaga’s plans to appeal.
The tribunal’s recommendation to dismiss Lasaga had not been made public prior to Sunday’s press release.
Members of the Yale Corporation, the University’s highest policy-making body, will consider Lasaga’s appeal. The 16 trustees will choose either to conduct an oral hearing or to read written submissions. Trustees have been notified of Lasaga’s appeal but no date for further proceedings has been set.
To adjudicate the matter, Corporation members have the option to appoint a small committee composed of fellow trustees or to act as an entire body.
Lasaga, reached yesterday at his Cheshire, Conn., home where he is under house arrest, would not comment on his decision to appeal. Since his arrest, he has only spoken to the press through his lawyer. The tribunal’s decision was made independently of federal and state court proceedings, which are still underway.
Last February, Lasaga admitted receiving 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. 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.
Sentencing in the case, which began over two years ago, is still on hold pending the resolution of a motion to dismiss one of two guilty pleas.
Nine months after it was convoked, the University Tribunal issued its recommendation to Levin that Lasaga’s tenure be revoked. The tribunal is the disciplinary body that evaluates whether a professor should be removed from the Yale faculty. It was convoked for the first time in Yale’s history to handle the Lasaga matter.
At Lasaga’s request, all of the tribunal proceedings were confidential.
Nobel Prize-winning professor Sidney Altman chaired the tribunal. He declined to comment on Lasaga’s appeal of the decision of the tribunal.
One month after receiving the tribunal’s decision, Levin informed Lasaga on Feb. 20 of his decision to move forward in removing him from the Yale faculty. Lasaga recently informed Levin that he would exercise his right to appeal that decision to the Yale Corporation, according to the press release.
Under tribunal protocol Lasaga had 21 days after hearing Levin’s decision to appeal, but due to “complications,” Levin said that time period was extended slightly.
Professors in the geology and geophysics department said they are not surprised that Lasaga has decided to appeal.
“It does not surprise me that Lasaga is appealing,” professor Jeffrey Park said. “If he had wanted to resign, he had many opportunities to do so.”
Some geology and geophysics professors said they are also upset about the effect that Lasaga’s tenured status has on the department.
“It’s causing a great deal of grief for our department,” professor Jacques Gauthier said. “It tends to be demoralizing to students and faculty.”