Morris College Instructor Sues After Contract is Not Renewed
A White professor has sued a predominantly Black school for failing to renew his contract.
Assistant Professor Michael Ardis says Morris College terminated his employment after he complained in a restaurant about the service of a waiter, who in turn questioned whether the complaint was racially motivated.
Ardis says his problems began when he was at a restaurant in February and the rolls he ordered were delivered to the wrong table. A Morris College trustee and his son were seated at the table that received the rolls.
When Ardis asked why he had not received the rolls, waiter Philip Dunlap — who was also a Morris College student — said he thought Ardis had canceled the order. Ardis told him he had not, and the Black waiter asked whether Ardis was complaining because of racial issues.
Ardis says he was offended and asked to speak to the manager. The next day, Ardis discussed the issue in class. He says he wanted to illustrate to his students how situations can take a racial slant even when it is not intended. When a student pointed out that Dunlap attended Morris, Ardis says he ended the discussion.
A few days later, a personnel director sent word that the college had decided not to rehire Ardis for the coming year.
Ardis finished out the school year, but says it was difficult because his colleagues “stayed away from me; I was asked not to come back to different colleagues’ offices.”
“I have a right to free speech. I have a right to make a complaint in a restaurant,” he says. “This is an attempt to wreck my career, and I don’t appreciate it.”
But Morris College’s president, Dr. Luns C. Richardson says the dismissal had nothing to do with the restaurant incident, and that Ardis’ position was only temporary. Richardson says the position was scheduled to end when the college found someone with a doctorate. When Ardis was hired in July 1998, he was still working on his doctorate dissertation.
The American Association of University Professors recently charged the college with violating its own nationally accepted standards in Ardis’ dismissal. Officials there say the notice was too abrupt.
Ardis has asked the college to pay monetary damages, and he has offered to drop his lawsuit if Morris will give back his job. The college has rejected the offer. A college attorney says the case is pending
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