A Texas community college that fired an African-American tenured history faculty member for disciplinary reasons has won a racial discrimination and retaliation case.
A state appeals court ruled in favor of College of the Mainland in Texas City in a suit by Ernest Navy, who became an adjunct faculty member in 2001 and a full-time associate professor in the Social and Behavior Science Department in 2004.
The college’s president, Dr. Beth Lewis, said, “We feel the court made the right decision in dismissing the case against the College of the Mainland and are pleased to have this issue behind us.”
Navy’s initial tenure application in 2007 was rejected because of plagiarism, spelling and grammatical mistakes, the court said. Ultimately, the board of trustees allowed him to revise and resubmit his application and awarded tenure in 2009. He was terminated in 2010.
However in the months that followed, the department chair and dean of general education progressively disciplined Navy for “repeatedly making false and unsubstantiated allegations against his colleagues, repeatedly violating Mainland’s policies for proctoring exams and administering student evaluations, assigning an excessive number of incomplete grades and inappropriately soliciting emails from students,” the Texas Court of Appeals said.
In an opinion by Justice Jeffrey Brown, the court said Navy had “received excessive student complaints regarding his incorrect grade calculations, his failure to respond to students’ emails and the lack of organization of his online courses.” The decision noted that a high school principal whose students took classes at Mainland had asked that they “be assigned to any instructor other than Navy.”
The decision said that, despite “disciplinary interventions, Navy consistently failed to correct his behavior.”
His suit alleged employment discrimination based on disparate racial treatment, as well as retaliation. A lower court judge dismissed all claims without trial.
In upholding that ruling, the appeals panel said Navy failed to show that any non-Black faculty members were treated more favorably than him. “There is no evidence of any other professor at Mainland with a similar history of misconduct and performance issues.”
As for the allegation that the college illegally retaliated because of his past grievances, complaint to the Texas Workforce Commission and lawsuit, the court said the college “showed numerous legitimate, nonretaliatory reasons” for his termination.
Discrimination suit rejected
A federal appeals panel has rejected an Equal Pay Act and Title VII suit by a former African-American female faculty member at Mississippi State University.
In its second review of the suit, the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a jury verdict against Dr. Myrtle Prewitt, who was an assistant research professor in the Department of Forest Products.
She is now retired, said Sid Salter, director of the Office of University Relations. Salter also said the university doesn’t comment on personnel matters or litigation.
Prewitt’s race and gender discrimination suit claimed that Mississippi State paid her significantly less than a White male colleague who had substantially the same responsibilities.
In its decision, the appeals court found no factual basis for Prewitt’s argument that the jury “did not represent a fair cross-section of the community because of an insufficient number of African-Americans on the panel.” It said Prewitt had failed to object earlier to the make-up of the jury and “provided no evidence that the alleged underrepresentation of African-Americans was due to the systematic exclusion of the group in the jury selection process.”
The panel also found no grounds for Prewitt’s claim that she lacked an opportunity to “fully and fairly litigate” the case. It cited “the abundance of evidence in favor of Mississippi State” and said she “enjoyed six years of litigation and a four-day trial” that produced a unanimous verdict.