Around the world, UTD alumni continue to excel at their post-graduate endeavors. One such alumnus is Mo Kashmiri, a graduate of University California-Berkley law school and UTD.
Kashmiri is the instigator of a potential $60 million lawsuit against the University of California system (UC System).
Class-action was filed in July 2003 after UC increased graduate students’ fees 25 percent. The suit alleges that UC broke its contract with professional degree students. When the school board was inform ed of the suit, they sent Kashmiri a letter informing him that the policy could be legally changed.
Two weeks ago, San Francisco Superior Court Judge James L. Warren awarded Kashmiri and his fellow litigants a preliminary injunction on the fees. The ruling is expected to cost UC $15 million in lost revenue.
“People are being pushed out of higher education,” Kashmiri said, adding that he had to dropout for a semester due to the fee increase.
The judge’s ruling could affect as many as 9,500 of the system’s 197,000 students. The students who enrolled prior to 2003 in professional schools are eligible to receive part of the settlement.
“We want to make sure the university lives up to its promises,” Kashmiri said. “This is really just a political fight.”
A decision in the case is due Oct 1, while the summary judgment is expected Nov. 1.
Born in Bryan, Texas, Kashmiri is the eldest son of Pakistani immigrants and a self-described progressive activist. He graduated from UTD in December 1999 with a degree in political science. He said the degree was not what he had originally intended to pursue.
“I wanted to go into medicine,” Kashmiri said, “but I just could not stand blood.”
During his stint at UTD, Kashmiri served as student body vice president. He guided the development of the online teacher evaluation and the textbook exchange.
Undergraduate Studies Dean Michael Coleman said he was glad to see a student like Kashmiri go through UTD.
“The University wanted to promote activism,” Coleman said. “He was a real asset to the other students.”
Political science professor Dr. Anthony Champagne shared Coleman’s enthusiasm for Kashmiri.
“He genuinely cared about people and did everything in the world to protect the UTD students,” Champagne said.
While a student, Kashmiri opposed the no-left-turn sign from Floyd onto Lookout.
“I am absolutely shocked that sign is still there,” Kashmiri said. “It is a stupid law that costs students hundreds, for turning!”
When the sign was first posted, six police cars simultaneously ticketed students, Kashmiri recalled. He walked along the sidewalk with a sign warning students: “The cops are waiting for you.”
Despite being on the sidewalk, Kashmiri was handcuffed by police and accused of obstructing traffic.
“I got put in the back of the cop car” Kashmiri said. “The police would come back every 15 minutes and say that they would let me go, if I just left the area.”
Kashmiri has continued with unconventional methods of advocacy in California. He donned an oversized chicken costume at Berkeley when Arnold Schwarzenegger failed to appear at a gubernatorial debate.
“I was inspired by working with the people (at UTD),” Kashmiri said. “If you work hard enough, you really can change things.” Kashmiri intends to take the bar exam in both Texas and California.
“The state of California better watch out,” Champagne said, “because Mo will be looking out for the little guy.”
Although Kashmiri may not practice law here in Texas, he takes time to occasionally drop by the campus and speak with the pre-law society.
Despite having graduated from UTD five years ago, Kashmiri’s impact is still felt on campus. “I think that Mo had an important part in the history of undergraduate education here,” Coleman says.
For all the poor, unfortunate souls getting ticketed for turning left onto Lookout, Kashmiri offered the following advice: “Keep Causing Chaos.”