KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former assistant professor has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against four Emporia State University officials, a month after another professor in the same department also sued the Kansas school.
Rajesh Singh, who is Asian, taught at the university’s School of Library and Information Management from 2009 until he was fired in January 2015. His lawsuit names two current administrators in the department, Provost David Cordle and former university president Michael Shonrock. The university will be added to the lawsuit when Singh’s attorneys receive a right to sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The lawsuit comes about a month after Melvin Hale, an assistant professor in the same department, filed a defamation and invasion of privacy lawsuit against the university.
In the lawsuit, Singh details discrimination and retaliation from department Dean Gwen Alexander and interim associate dean Andrew Smith, who he said were supported by Cordle and Shonrock. He said the discrimination occurred despite his receiving positive reviews during his first three years on campus.
Singh alleges the discrimination began in 2010 after he asked to be paid the same as two other, newer staff members, including Smith. He said he was actively marginalized and criticized, culminating when all of his fall 2014 teaching assignments were canceled without warning, he was locked out of his office and had all his office contents seized. Singh said he sought to resolve the conflict through personal meetings and the university’s procedures but administrators ignored or disputed his efforts and did not follow the procedures.
The university does not comment on pending litigation, spokeswoman Gwen Larson said. Alexander, who has been on administrative leave for most of this school year, plans to retire next June.
Hale, who is black, alleged in his lawsuit that he was defamed and ostracized after he and his wife complained that someone wrote a racial slur near her office and administrators did not investigate their report of the incident or respond to their complaints. Angelica Hale’s position as assistant to the dean of the library information department was not renewed after the couple complained. A university investigation found no evidence to support the couple’s allegations of a hate crime and discrimination, prompting Hale to file his lawsuit.
After that investigation, the university announced several steps to improve diversity and inclusivity on campus, including hiring a facilitator to conduct public forums on the topic. During the first of those forums Thursday, members of the media were asked to leave after some students expressed concern about their presence. The school’s counsel said the media should be admitted and allowed to attend a second forum Thursday. University officials attributed the disagreement to a lack of communication.
Another forum is scheduled for Dec. 3, with an equity and inclusion summit scheduled for the next day. Larson said the media will be allowed into those meetings. The school will work with students to help them understand the role of media and also will provide an alternative way for students to add their comments without speaking in front of the media, she said.
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