Bluefield State Told to Reinstate Fired Professor

BLUEFIELD, W.Va. —

The West Virginia Education and State EmployeesGrievance Board last month ordered historically Black Bluefield StateCollege to reinstate Garrett Olmsted as a tenured professor. Olmstedwas fired after protesting the firing of the last Black faculty memberand the fact that African American student enrollment had dropped under8 percent. (See Black Issues, June 11)

Olmsted claimed that he was subjected to death threats, assaults, and an on-campus attempt to run him over with a car.

Administrative law Judge Andrew Maier ruled that the collegesecurity officer’s prejudicial investigation of the incidents and thecollege’s subsequent exoneration of one of the assailants placedOlmsted “in reasonable fear of imminent physical harm.” The judge thenordered the college to reinstate Olmsted, who was fired for abandonmentof position when the college refused to grant him an unpaid leave ofabsence in an attempt to avoid what he considered were unsafeconditions at the campus.

Olmsted had also fried a complaint with the U.S. Department ofEducation’s Office for Civil Rights challenging the status of BluefieldState because as a historically Black institution, it receives morethan $1 million annually from the federal government. As a result, thecollege had to enter into a compliance agreement with the OCR, submit aplan to rectify racial inequalities at the college, and hire Blackfaculty.

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