Former provost sues ousted president

Hai-Lung Dai is accusing Neil Theobald of slander, libel and misrepresentation.

Neil Theobald (left), addresses the state legislature in Harrisburg in March. Hai-Lung Dai (right), speaks at the opening of the Science Education and Research Center in 2014. TTN FILE PHOTO | PATRICK CLARK / KARA MILSTEIN

Former provost Hai-Lung Dai has filed a lawsuit against former university president Neil Theobald.

Dai’s civil suit, filed Sept. 21 in the Court of Common Pleas, accuses the former president of libel, slander and misrepresentation, according to the case’s docket. The most recent action is a delivered writ of summons — a document initiating legal proceedings — presented to Theobald.

Theobald removed Dai as provost in late June, allegedly for allowing the university’s deficit in merit scholarships to grow to $22 million. Because of Theobald’s handling of the merit scholarship deficit and firing of Dai, the Board of Trustees voted in mid-July to remove Theobald from his position as president.

Before agreeing to leave his position as president, Theobald emailed the Board of Trustees and Temple’s Human Resources department, stating he believed his ousting was because he refused to cover up sexual harassment allegations against Dai, according to Philadelphia magazine.

But calls to Theobald and Dai’s lawyers did not reveal what statement is being contested.

Theobald’s lawyer Raymond Cotton, from the Boston-based Mintz Levin firm, declined to comment.

And Dai’s lawyer Patricia Pierce, a partner at the Greenblatt, Pierce, Engle, Funt & Flores law firm, did not return several messages requesting comment.

In July, a few weeks after he was fired as provost, Dai told the Inquirer that the allegations of harassment were “complete and utter fabrications.”

“I will not rest or retreat until I have pursued every avenue available to me, including through a court of law, to restore my good name,” Dai said in a statement to the Inquirer.

Dai is still listed on Temple’s website as the Laura H. Carnell Professor of Chemistry. Theobald is currently on a year-long sabbatical as a member of the faculty in the College of Education.

“The board is aware that former provost Hai-Lung Dai has filed a writ of summons naming former President Neil Theobald in this matter,” Kevin Feeley, the Board of Trustees’ spokesperson, wrote in a statement in response to a request from The Temple News. “The University is not named in the filing, and no Complaint has been filed yet.”

Feeley added that the Board will not comment further at this time.

Pierce requested an eight-person jury after filing, the docket shows. The status recorded on the document that the court is still waiting to arrange a case management conference, where the two parties would set a timeline for further proceedings.

Gillian McGoldrick can be reached at

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