Poet-Professor Files Federal Charge Against Cleveland State University

With her employment discrimination case against Cleveland State University heading to trial to begin in a Columbus, Ohio, courtroom this week, Nuala M. Archer has opened a federal legal front, according to documents obtained exclusively by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.

Archer—who as a tenured associate professor in CSU’s English Department from 1990 until 1 August of this year spoke out for decades about an alleged dearth of minority professors and students in her program and alleged discrimination in the state-court lawsuit—filed a retaliation charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Friday, 4 November. In the filing, Archer alleges that she was fired 12 weeks ago as retaliation for having formally complained of age, gender and race discrimination and having those claims validated by her case’s making it to trial. 

CSU Senior Vice President and Provost Geoffrey S. Mearns notified Archer on 22 July 2011 that she was terminated effective 1 August “because of a pattern of conduct that violated” the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the university and the CSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, “as well as the basic tenets of professionalism and collegiality,” according to the letter.  

But Archer contends that she is being illegally targeted for credibly asserting that her employer committed civil rights violations. 

“Unfortunately, 10 weeks before the trial and before the fall semester began, [CSU] chose to retaliate against Dr. Archer by serving her a two-page termination letter clearly designed to punish Dr. Archer for blowing the whistle on the illegal age and gender discrimination she battled much of this year,” Archer alleges in the charging document’s cover letter, written by her lawyer, Amos Jones of Washington, D.C. “Dr. Archer now therefore complains to the EEOC for resolution of this retaliation … pursuant to the protections afforded her by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.”

Until Thursday, 3 November, Archer was formally fighting the firing through her union’s grievance process, “but the provost’s office shut down that due process, too, and declared it null and void five days before opening day at Professor Archer’s discrimination trial,” Jones said.  

CSU has denied the allegations in court filings. CSU General Counsel Sonali Wilson, Ohio Assistant Attorney Randall Knutti, who is representing CSU at the trial, and Mearns declined repeated requests for comment.

In addition to litigating in state court and pursuing the new federal charge, Archer is seeking her job back. She has appealed the 1 August dismissal through Ohio’s State Board of Personnel Review.  

Archer also is contemplating “an omnibus discrimination complaint” to be filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, Jones said.