After dishonesty claim, former NU student wants $50,000, official diploma

Dalia Naamani-Goldman

A former Northwestern student is suing a biochemistry professor for more than $50,000, alleging the faculty member changed his grade and prevented him from graduating.

Anton Rozenbaum, who was set to graduate in 2002, filed the lawsuit against both Prof. Erik Sontheimer and NU on Sept. 24. Rozenbaum is requesting that his transcript and academic records be changed and that he receive a university diploma.

Rozenbaum’s lawyer, Jonathan Goldman of Chicago, would not comment on the suit. Rozenbaum could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Rozenbaum studied with Sontheimer Winter Quarter 2002 in Principles of Biochemistry. According to Rozenbaum’s court filing, he received a B+ on the final exam but wanted to consult the professor about his mistakes. Rozenbaum took notes on his copy of the exam during his meeting with Sontheimer, and the professor kept the exam to discuss with teaching assistants.

Court documents indicates Sontheimer later claimed the student wanted a grade change. The documents claim the professor also informed the dean of Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences that Rozenbaum engaged in academic dishonesty because he attempted to change answers on the exam. Sontheimer changed Rozenbaum’s grade to an F.

Craig Bina, Weinberg associate dean, also met with Rozenbaum to discuss his concerns about Sontheimer’s claims. According to the lawsuit filing, “Dean Bina told the plaintiff that he did not believe the plaintiff, because Bina felt it was unlikely that a professor would lie to him as a result of this argument and usually it was the students that lied to get extra points.”

The court documents claims Bina tried to shorten the time frame to file an appeal, “notwithstanding that no official and final determination of his alleged academic dishonesty was ever made against him by the provost of NU, as required by NU’s policies.”

Both Sontheimer and Bina declined to comment on the case. NU officials declined to go into details, but said the university is defending Sontheimer because he is a university representative.

“The university believes the allegations in the lawsuit are without merit and we intend to defend it vigorously,” said Alan Cubbage, vice president for university relations.

A trial date will be set for the lawsuit at a hearing on Feb. 17, said Mary Nolin of the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County.