Two white faculty members at Alabama State University have filed a lawsuit contending that the historically black university is racist toward whites in its hiring and admission practices.
Steven B. Chesbro, who according to the suit is the only dean at Alabama State not designated as African-American or black, and his partner and fellow ASU faculty member John Garland also contend that ASU passed regulations specifically against same-sex couples and that officials retaliated against the pair for complaining about the university using race as a determining factor for both hiring professors and admitting students.
Bobby Segall, an attorney representing ASU, said the university categorically denies the contentions.
“They deny that anything related to their (Chesbro’s and Garland’s) employment arose because of anything racial or anything related to their sexual orientation,” Segall said.
He said the contention that the university uses race as a determining factor in hiring faculty is also untrue.
Segall said the suit, which has been filed in U.S. District Court in Montgomery, appears to be less about the university than about a few faculty members at the university.
“I think maybe one or more of those folks had a squabble with some of their faculty members, but Alabama State University did not engage in any discrimination as alleged in their complaint,” he said.
But attorney Wayne Sabel, who is representing Chesbro and Garland, said the suit “clearly shows that there was discrimination because of race and sexual orientation: There’s no doubt about that.”
“They have told Dr. Chesbro that his hands are tied in the face of gross insubordination and even threats of physical harm,” Sabel said. “You look at some of the statements they have made that are in the complaint, and they are saying things like ‘only black professors should teach black students.'”
He said the two white faculty members are being treated differently from black, straight professors at the university.
“They have treated Dr. Chesbro and Dr. Garland contemptibly,” he said. “There is clearly a campaign not only to force Dr. Chesbro and Dr. Garland out, but to force out a number of other longtime white faculty.”
Some of the major allegations the suit raises:
• Numerous white faculty members have complained about racist hiring and selection processes at the university without any action being taken by the administration.
“As many as six EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) charges, not including those directly involving this matter, are now pending against the university alleging race or gender discrimination,” the suit says. It alleges that when a white ASU faculty member voiced concerns with others on a search committee that race was being used inappropriately to make a selection, the university’s response was to remove him as head of the search committee.
• Faculty members on one search committee insisted its primary goal should be to select someone who was both female and black and there were instances in which search committee members said only black applicants should be considered for employment at the school, according to the suit.
• Race played a major role in admissions to the doctoral program for physical therapy, the suit contends.
“Of the 47 black applicants who applied for admission to the doctoral program for physical therapy in 2013, 20 percent met the required GPA standard, but 57 percent of the candidates were admitted. In contrast, of 137 white applicants, 59 percent met the required GPA standard, but only 32 percent were admitted,” according to the suit.
• Nepotism regulations were changed on July 25, 2012, to prohibit couples from working together in the same department, but it was only for same-sex couples and continued to allow opposite-sex couples, married and unmarried, to work together in departments.
• Garland said in the initial suit that after his comments, he was transferred to a lesser job, resulting in a salary reduction of more than $23,000, that all his contact information, biography and curriculum vitae were removed from the university website and that he was placed in an office where for months he had no working computer, mail service, phone extension, copying capabilities, bookshelves or file cabinets. The suit states that to date, Garland has not received any campus mail at the office where he was moved on Aug. 21, 2012, and that the university operator has been incorrectly telling callers that he no longer works at the university.
SOURCE: Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser – Rick Harmon