MSU graduate students file lawsuit alleging professor forced them to work at his private company

Lawsuit filed over concerns related to labor trafficking

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The claims were brought against MSU, civil engineering professor Parviz Soroushian and former department Chair Venkatesh Kodur. 

DETROIT - A lawsuit was filed in federal court Friday over labor trafficking concerns on behalf of two students in Michigan State University’s civil engineering Ph.D. program.

The claims were brought against MSU, civil engineering professor Parviz Soroushian and former department Chair Venkatesh Kodur. 

The lawsuit claims that for years, Michigan State University College of Engineering professor Parviz
Soroushian exploited his MSU position and authority to compel doctoral students, by means of
fraudulent misrepresentation, intimidation, threatened academic harm and psychological coercion, to work at his private company for his (and others’) personal benefit.

MSU’s civil engineering faculty and administrators, including Kodur, knew Soroushian abused student labor for his personal enrichment, according to the lawsuit. 

Despite this knowledge, MSU, its administrators and its faculty failed to intervene to stop Soroushian, the lawsuit said. 

The plaintiffs are doctoral students who claim that in 2016 and 2017, they were swept into Soroushian’s labor scheme and forced to staff Soroushian’s government-funded research projects and perform other labor, often without any relation to their doctoral thesis and for little to no pay.

“Michigan State University failed these students,” says Nakisha Chaney, the students’
attorney. “Despite what appears to be longstanding knowledge by persons within the civil
engineering department of Soroushian’s reported mistreatment of graduate students at his private
company, no meaningful action was taken to intervene and protect these students.”

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