Black Women Sue Eastern Michigan University Over Sexual Harassment
Six female students at Eastern Michigan University filed a lawsuit last month in U.S. District Court against the university’s board of control, alleging sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and racial discrimination.
The women, all Black, say they are satisfied with the university’s suspension of two male students who allegedly sexually harassed them on a trip to South Africa last year, but they also want the university to punish a professor who chaperoned the trip.
The women say two students who were part of the group repeatedly harassed them on the school-sponsored trip last year.
In the suit, the women say Dr. Victor Okafor tolerated, condoned and was “deliberately indifferent” to the harassment.
“The point we made to the university is that if this would have been White women from Birmingham … there would have been a full-scale investigation and they would have stopped it before they had to flee the country,” says Detroit attorney George B. Washington, who filed the suit.
“Almost as soon as they got there, two … men in the group — in the company of the assistant director — began a really intense campaign of sexual harassment,” he says.
The women say they asked university officials to help them leave the trip early, but they were refused, Washington says.
The women then left with help from friends, who gave the women credit card numbers to buy airline tickets, the attorney says.
Kiersten King, Alicia Love, Natasha Martin, Leatrice Shacks, Brandie Tyuse and Shylene Wright all are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Eastern spokesman Ward Mullens says it is the university’s policy not to comment on pending litigation.
Washington says that despite witnessing many of these alleged incidents and hearing complaints from the female students about them, Okafor did nothing and at one point said “the problem with the Black American male is that feminism has castrated him.”
Okafor did not return phone calls from Black Issues.
The women say they suffered “extreme emotional pain, suffering and distress” and are seeking “an amount sufficient” to compensate them for damages, attorneys’ fees and any other costs deemed appropriate.
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