Two Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) professors are suing the school, claiming that it and its top administrators retaliated against them for making critical comments about the school to the press, Cleveland.com reported.
The lawsuit was filed Monday by attorney Subodh Chandra in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. It names then-Tri-C President Dr. Alex Johnson, former Tri-C Metro Campus President Dr. Denise McCory, assistant dean of counseling Dr. Terry Webb, associate dean of sciences Dr. Courtney Clarke, dean of academic affairs Dr. Amy Parks, executive vice president of administration and finance David Kuntz and manager of employee relations Shari Brazile.
In a May 2021 news segment, Diane Gaston and Linda Lanier told a WOIO Channel 19 reporter that the school’s decision to offer fewer in-person courses at its downtown campus than at suburban campuses disproportionately harmed Black and minority students. Tri-C had no policy barring faculty or employees from speaking to reporters in an individual capacity at the time, the lawsuit stated.
According to the suit, the comments prompted Johnson and other officials to retaliate. Allegedly, they launched a conspiracy to tarnish the two professors’ professional reputations and degrade working conditions, cutting them out of committees on which they previously worked, delaying requests for time off and family medical leave, and suspending them for three days without pay.
Tri-C rescinded the discipline more than a year later during an arbitration process.
The lawsuit alleges violations of the professors’ First Amendment rights, illegal retaliation, and discrimination over race and gender – both Gaston and Lanier are Black.
“Cuyahoga Community College denies any retaliation by anyone at the College as alleged in the complaint,” a Tri-C spokesperson said in an email statement. “Given that this matter is part of ongoing litigation, we have no further comment at this time.”