A Central Connecticut State University professor who made headlines when he was promoted while in jail last year and who was arrested again recently has been suspended and a state lawmaker is calling for his termination.
Police said Ravi Shankar, 40, of Rhode Island, grabbed items from store shelves at the Home Depot on Washington Street on July 29 and returned them for $1,339.75 in store credit.
The university has placed him on administrative suspension without pay as a result.
"Following the University’s consideration of his situation, Professor Ravi Shankar has been placed on administrative suspension without pay pending the results of investigations of the charge against him," Mark Warren McLaughlin, associate vice president of marketing and communications at CCSU, said in a statement Friday.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Kevin Witkos (R-8) is calling for Shankar to be fired. He wrote to CCSU President Jack Miller asking him to begin termination proceedings immediately.
"This is not Mr. Shankar’s first incident with law enforcement. In fact, Mr. Shankar has prior convictions for driving under the influence, reckless driving and interfering with an officer," Witkos wrote in the letter to Miller. "Additionally Mr. Shankar committed offenses against the university by fraudulently utilizing school equipment and theft through the improper use of a credit card. This case was investigated by your own police department. The charge was a felony to which Mr. Shankar served time in prison to complete his court imposed sentence. I am also aware that there are two additional pending cases in the judicial system that involves Mr. Shankar. These two cases are for driving with a suspended license and evading responsibility in an accident."
Witkos criticized the university for deciding not to terminate him after his first arrest and granting him "full professorship while he was incarcerated." He cited the collective bargaining agreement between the Board of Regents and University Professors, stating he believes there is cause for termination under the contract.
"This inaction by your office prompted legislation to be proposed dealing with the conduct of professors 'outside' the classroom," Witkos wrote. "As stated by several members of the Higher Education and Employment Committee, we have concerns that someone who has committed these types of crimes is allowed to continue as a professor in our University System. We view this as a safety issue and a role modeling issue."
He called Shankar "unfit to discharge his professional responsibilities" due to "his continuous disregard for the law."
"This professor is harming the reputation of all in the teaching field and quite frankly the administration by its inaction to date," Witkos said, adding that its in the best interest of the students, faculty and Connecticut taxpayers to fire Shankar.
An asset protection specialist who watched the incident happen brought Shankar back into the store and called 911, according the police report. The employee told investigators the bar codes of the items Shankar returned indicated they had not been purchased.
Shankar called the incident a misunderstanding and told officers they were "taking (employees') word for it," according to the police report.
"The facts of this matter have not been accurately reported and I am glad to live in a society where there is a presumption of innocence," Shankar said in an email to NBC Connecticut on Wednesday. "I look forward to my day in court and in the meantime ask that you might respect me and my family's privacy. Thank you for your understanding."
Shankar was the subject of controversy when he was promoted to full-time status at CCSU while booked into jail in May 2014. At the time, he was waiting to face charges from an arrest in 2012.
He was arrested again in December 2014 after crashing his car while driving with a suspended license, according to police. Shankar was charged with several motor vehicle violations and has pleaded not guilty.