Baton Rouge College Facing Sensitivity Training
BATON ROUGE, La. — The entire faculty and staff here at troubled Baton Rouge Community College, consumed for the last year by accusations of racism by both Blacks and Whites, will undergo diversity sensitivity training.
“The gun is not loaded toward anyone in particular, or toward any race in particular,” insists Dr. Wayne Brown, president of the state’s 9-month-old Community and Technical College System.
But Brown says he and the system’s board believe that everyone at the 2,000-student college could benefit from such training because of repeated incidents of alleged racism involving African American and White faculty and staff.
System officials fired former chancellor Dr. Marion Bonaparte, who is Black, in August amid allegations that he discriminated against White faculty members. Bonaparte, who has sued over his ouster, contended those faculty lodged the complaint because they themselves were facing allegations of discrimination.
Bonaparte has said that complaints came from a female faculty member who had been accused of using a racial epithet and from a male faculty member who had been caught in a compromising position with a female student.
Although the college system’s board also cited several problems with the school’s finances in dismissing Bonaparte, the former chancellor focused on the allegations of racism in a four-page letter that he sent the board after he filed suit over his firing.
“Those faculty members who accused me of discriminating against them lied, and they know they lied,” Bonaparte wrote. “They were the witting or unwitting dupes of the forces of evil at the college and in the community who had as their demonic goal, my unfair removal as chancellor of the college.”
Bonaparte’s successor, interim chancellor Dr. Sammie Cosper, who is White, also acknowledged that he was branded a racist by some Black faculty at Baton Rouge last fall when he unveiled an administrative reorganization plan that involved the demotion of one Black administrator and the promotion of several White ones.
In addition, several of the system’s board members say that they have received anonymous letters complaining about the reorganization plan and its overall negative impact on African American administrators at the embattled college.
One of those letters stated that Cosper’s plan showed a “blatant disregard for Black administrators.” A second claimed the shake-up involved “demotions for practically all Black administrators” who previously reported to the chancellor.
At Brown’s urging last month, the system’s board of supervisors agreed to allow the Baton Rouge Community College Foundation to accept a restricted gift from local business leaders to fund the sensitivity training.
Brown says he hopes to begin the training by May.
In addition to the sensitivity training, local business leaders are footing the bill for a recruiting firm to help find a new chancellor for the school. Cosper is a retired state commissioner of higher education who agreed to take the job temporarily last summer until a permanent replacement could be found.
Brown says he believes that one of the new chancellor’s major tasks will be to help the college heal its racial wounds and move forward after a trying year in which the college has weathered numerous lawsuits, firings and racial incidents.
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