A couple that sued KU for discrimination believe a recent incident of office vandalism is part of an effort to intimidate them both.
An apparent intruder damaged property in the office of a Kansas University faculty member with a lawsuit pending against the university, campus police said Tuesday.
Posters in the office of Raymond Pierotti, associate professor of ecology and environmental biology, were ripped from the wall. Nothing else was damaged in a break-in that occurred between June 28 and June 30. There was no sign of forced entry.
"The victim is positive the office was locked. Someone possibly would have had access to the area," said Lt. Schuyler Bailey of the KU public safety office.
Bailey said there were no suspects. It's unknown whether the vandalism was linked to Pierotti's legal action, he said.
Pierotti and his wife, Cynthia Annett, filed a lawsuit in February alleging race and sex discrimination by KU and department chairman Thomas Taylor.
Pierotti, an American Indian, claimed discrimination on the basis of race. He made several claims, including discrimination in allocation of office and lab space. Annett alleged sex discrimination after denied tenure by the department.
Todd Cohen, assistant director of the University Relations office, said KU worked to maintain a secure campus environment.
"To this end, the office of public safety is thoroughly investigating this report," he said.
Bailey said the case wouldn't be easy to solve.
"It's going to be hard," he said. "The officer is still out interviewing people."
Annett said vandalism at Pierotti's office was the latest in a series of events that she believes were designed to intimidate both of them. One week after their lawsuit was filed items posted on the outside of their office doors began to be destroyed, she said.
"They were very obviously targeted things," she said. "I considered this kind of threatening."
Annett said the office break-in was something that "starts getting ... more serious."
She said KU employees removed belongings from Pierotti's Haworth Hall laboratory without warning in February and June 1998. The couple subsequently shared a laboratory until June 15, when Annett's employment at KU was terminated.
Annett moved out but left Pierotti's possessions behind in the lab. The day after Pierotti reported the office vandalism to KU police, university employees seized everything left in that lab, placed it in storage and changed door locks.
"It's Ray's scientific library," Annett said. "It's still in storage."
Pierotti, who declined to be interviewed, has no place to conduct research in bird and mammal ecology, Annett said.
Cohen said university staff told Annett to clear everything from her lab to make room for a new faculty member. There was "absolutely no connection between the clearing of the lab and the litigation involving Mr. Pierotti," he said.
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