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California Professor Launches Hunger Strike
Over Tenure Decision
POMONA, Calif. — A professor at Pomona College who says he was denied tenure because of race discrimination went on a hunger strike last month, hoping the attention would pressure the school to reopen the case.
Dr. Stanley O. Gaines Jr. worked as an assistant professor of psychology and Black studies at Pomona and had applied for tenure in 1998. The Black studies department, an intercollegiate board that has members from other of the Claremont Colleges, endorsed his promotion. The school’s psychology department rejected the move by a vote of eight to one. Gaines continued to work at the school until his contract ran out in June, and has received a Fulbright grant to teach in Jamaica in the fall.
Gaines says the official reason the review committee gave the denial was based on his teaching ability. A heated debate in a 1996 Black studies class, which resulted in a White student leaving the room in tears, was cited by the review committee as evidence of Gaines’ teaching deficiencies.
“The interesting thing about that is, the Black studies department looked at that incident, saw it as a one-time affair and concluded I rectified the situation,” Gaines told Black Issues. “But my home department, the psychology department, used that as the primary offense and their sole basis for declaring me deficient.”
He contends that his tenure was really rejected on the basis of popularity. He says he stepped on a lot of toes in his role as founder and president of the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors, and lost friends when he successfully challenged the denial of a contract renewal for an Asian American professor. He says he also was criticized for questioning departmental policies and procedures regarding research–subject pools.
“At one point, I received a letter from the chair of the board of trustees, Robert Tranquada, who was upset because I’d criticized the administration,” Gaines says. “In the letter, he questioned my fitness for tenure. I filed a faculty grievance, and the panel concluded Dr. Tranquada had violated my right to academic freedom. Their immediate recommendation was for him to recuse himself from my tenure review. I don’t know if he followed that. What I do know is that soon after that he posted a Web site commentary on the limitations of academic freedom.
“There is no doubt the denial for tenure was political, based primarily on my increasingly outspoken role throughout the campus.”
Gaines has filed discrimination and retaliation complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is investigating the matter. He says he will continue the hunger strike until the college meets his demands.
“At this point, I have no income, and the bills are starting to pile up,” Gaines says. “I couldn’t afford a normal diet anyway.”
So far, Gaines has lost 17 pounds, and he says he has incorporated fruit juice into his diet. Aside from some shortness of breath, he says he feels fine.
Meanwhile, the college, which issued a statement on the matter, is not likely to revisit the issue.
“There is no basis for his charge of discrimination, and the college’s tenure decision is final,” the statement said. “The college is aware of news reports that Mr. Gaines has decided to go on a hunger strike. We view this as unfortunate, and sincerely hope Mr. Gaines does not take any action that endangers his health.”
Chambers Stepping Down From
N.C. Central University
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Julius Chambers, a civil rights lawyer who spent the last seven years confronting decades of neglect at North Carolina Central University, plans to step down as chancellor.
Chambers says he will leave in June, or after a successor has been chosen.
Administrators at a University of North Carolina Board of Governors meeting announced his decision last month and praised Chambers for raising academic expectations and the profile of the campus. N.C. Central, part of the 16-campus UNC system, is the nation’s first public liberal arts institution founded for African Americans.
“This is a critically important time in the life of N.C. Central,” says system president Dr. Molly Broad. “Certainly, Julius Chambers has made some very important investments in the future.”
Chambers, 63, made no comments at the Board of Governors meeting, but he broke the news on campus at a press conference announcing a new basketball coach.
“I have submitted my resignation, or told folks I was retiring, and I’m leaving shortly,” he says. “It’s not because we’ve got a new coach, but I’ve got some other things I’m working on.”
Chambers says he plans to return to the civil rights law firm he founded in Charlotte, now known as Ferguson, Stein, Wallas, Adkins, Gresham & Sumter.
When asked whether his battle with prostate cancer, diagnosed last year, played a role in his decision to leave, Chambers replied: “It sure helped. I’m doing all right. But I’m going to get some time to get away and recover.”
When he took the job in 1993, Chambers had intended to make his stay in Durham a short one. He told university officials he would give them three years, but planned to go back to his law practice.
He stayed four years longer than he expected.
“We’re losing a jewel of a guy,” says Ben Ruffin, chairman of the Board of Governors and a Central alumnus. “But we kept him longer than we thought.”
Chambers brought with him a reputation as a civil rights lawyer who had won major landmark cases in school segregation and fair employment — despite the bombing of his car, home and law office.
Chambers, who served on the UNC Board of Governors in the 1970s, went from his Charlotte law firm to become head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in 1984.
When he arrived at N.C. Central in 1993, the athletic department had accumulated nearly $900,000 in debt, and its former director was indicted for allegedly receiving kickbacks. Auditors had criticized Central’s financial management practices for years, and a professor of public administration was accused of fixing students’ grades and misspending $828,000 in grant money.
Chambers quickly replaced three of four vice chancellors, then set to work helping faculty double the new research money they brought in. He also demanded that incoming freshmen average at least 900 on the SAT. According to the latest enrollment report, the average SAT score of students admitted for 2000-2001 was 902.
“He has been a perfect chancellor,” says Dr. C.D. Spangler, former president of the UNC system. “He’s made it a lot better school, plus he’s made the student body better and the faculty better. Nobody could have done the job more effectively than Julius Chambers.”
Chambers is known for successfully arguing the Supreme Court case Swann vs. Mecklenburg, which mandated busing to integrate public schools in Charlotte.
Search Committee’s Lack of Diversity Upsets Ky. Faculty
LEXINGTON, Ky.— Some Black faculty members at the University of Kentucky are angry that no minorities are included among a committee searching for the school’s next president.
Faculty members recently sent a letter to Board of Trustees Chairman Billy Joe Miles questioning why all 12 of the search committee members are White.
The group is made up of trustees, faculty members, alumni, staff and students. It was appointed in April.
“In a tax-supported institution of higher learning, the exclusion of African American members of the community from a national presidential search violates all principles of inclusiveness, equity and democratic representation,” the letter says.
Of the university’s 1,892 faculty members, only 62 are Black. Blacks make up about 10 percent of staff employees, and about 5 percent of the student body.
Lauretta Byars, the university’s vice chancellor of minority affairs, says the lack of Blacks on the committee was the result of the selection process itself.
“I think this is a case where there are not enough numbers overall,” Byars says.
Miles selected five trustees to serve. The faculty senate selected three, and staff employees picked one. Miles selected an alumni representative from a list submitted by the alumni association, and he filled two student spots from a list provided by the student government association.
Miles says he has received the letter and takes the faculty’s concerns seriously.
“We want to make sure the search is as inclusive as possible and that means finding a way for everyone to be heard,” Miles says.
Miles says he expects that search committee chairwoman and UK Trustee JoEtta Wickliffe would hold forums to gain the input of Blacks and other minority faculty groups.
Current President Dr. Charles Wethington will step down next June.
Hampshire Professor Sues
Over Black Replacement
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — A White college teacher is suing Hampshire College, claiming officials there discriminated against her when they hired a Black replacement.
Laurie Alberts, 46, a writing teacher, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court.
In the lawsuit, she says she held the teaching job for three years on a temporary basis and then applied for the permanent job. She claims that she was told the college wanted to hire a minority for the slot.
The suit says the college hired a less experienced Black woman with fewer credentials.
“Hampshire College decided it would only hire a minority for this position,” says Alberts’ lawyer, Harvey Schwartz. “As a result, Laurie Alberts was out of a job … solely because of the color of her skin. This is discrimination, no matter how politically correct it is intended to be.”
Elaine Thomas, a spokeswoman for the Amherst school, refused to comment on specifics of the suit. But she says, “Hampshire College believes in the educational value of a diverse community and takes a variety of steps to attract a talented and diverse pool of applicants for open positions.”
Miss. Auditor Praises
Jackson State University
JACKSON, Miss. — State Auditor Phil Bryant has praised Jackson State University officials for improvements since he issued a demand to collect nearly $147,000 to offset problems with missing inventory three years ago.
“It is important for the taxpayers to know the staff at Jackson State has been very good stewards of their property,” Bryant said last month, during a news conference with Jackson State’s president, Dr. Ronald Mason.
Reports released by Bryant’s office show the percentage of missing items at Jackson State had dwindled from 9.5 percent in 1993 to 5.3 percent in 1995. It fell from 1 percent in 1997 to 0 percent in 1999. The value of Jackson State’s furniture, equipment and other fixed assets— excluding land and buildings — is $18.56 million, according to the audit completed earlier this month.
Mason, who went to work at Jackson State on Feb. 1, says the report is a good sign.
“We hope they get the message that Jackson State is a good investment and that we can watch our money,” Mason says.
Bryant says Jackson State made improvements in property management procedures and usage of a computerized electronic bar code system to keep better track of inventory.
For years, Jackson State encountered problems when equipment such as computers were either improperly tagged or misplaced.
Problems first were uncovered in the early 1990s, when auditors reported equipment was missing. Some equipment had been missing up to 20 years .
University officials recovered much of the missing equipment in recent years, Bryant says. Problems festered, he says, because a sound accounting system was not properly in place.
When Bryant issued his demand for $146,864 on Jackson State in July 1997, he gave the university 30 days to pay up or face a lawsuit from the attorney general’s office. Jackson State alumni and other school supporters contributed funds to pay the demand.
Iowa Dentistry Student to Plead Diminished Responsibility
IOWA CITY, Iowa — A University of Iowa dentistry student charged with sending racist e-mails to fellow minorities will use a diminished-responsibility defense against two felony charges.
The diminished-responsibility defense means Tarsha Claiborne, 24, did not have the capacity to form a necessary criminal intent before acting, says Iowa City attorney Leon Spies, one of Claiborne’s defense attorneys.
Accusations against Claiborne include sending a bomb threat via e-mail threatening to blow up the University of Iowa College of Dentistry and entering an apartment complex next to hers and placing a plate of dyed-red noodles outside the door of a Black male dental student with an attached note that said: “Dead Black Man’s Brains” (see Black Issues, May 11). In both cases, she is charged with hate crimes, among other things.
Claiborne’s attorneys were required to file a notice saying they would use the diminished-responsibility defense before her trials, but Spies declined to comment on why the defense was chosen or how attorneys will use it.
Diminished responsibility differs from a claim of insanity in that it cannot be used as an entire criminal defense, Spies says. It can affect only certain elements of the defense, he says. Diminished responsibility can also result in a conviction of a crime or degree of crime less serious than originally charged.
Claiborne, who is Black, is scheduled to stand trial Sept. 18 on the trespassing and threat charges. She is forbidden to initiate contact with any members of the Iowa dentistry program.
LSU Officials Seek to Boost
Minority Enrollment in Baton Rouge
BATON ROUGE, La. — Under pressure from a federal judge, Louisiana State University officials are implementing a five-year plan to boost the percentage of Black students and teachers at its Baton Rouge campus.
“As a university with a legacy of exclusion of our state’s African American citizens, who comprise 31 percent of Louisiana’s population, we must do better. And we will,” Dr. Mark Emmert, chancellor, and Dr. Dan Fogel, provost, said in a memo distributed on the campus.
By 2005, university officials intend to increase Black student enrollment by 20 percent, from 2,852 last fall to 3,407 out of more than 30,000 students total. The number of full-time Black professors should rise by 73 percent, from 30 last fall to 52, officials say.
The move follows a critical report from a federal court team monitoring compliance with a 1995 desegregation agreement affecting the state’s public colleges.
The panel, consisting of veteran out-of-state educators, reports to U.S. District Judge Charles Schwartz Jr., and was created to track the state’s compliance with the settlement of a decades-old desegregation lawsuit.
Enrollment and hiring data in the latest federal compliance report showed minimal progress in other-race recruitment since 1995.
At predominantly White four-year colleges, 90 percent or more of the full-time faculty is White, the report found.
At four-year Black colleges, Blacks represented between 61 percent and 70 percent of the teaching staff. LSU-Baton Rouge’s percentage of Black students has increased less than 1 percentage point in the past five years, and it’s still less than 10 percent of the total student body.
Officials envision a beefed-up recruitment effort in predominantly Black high schools, including early identification of high academic achievers, says Dr. Greg Vincent, vice provost for campus diversity.
Educator Jarrett Dies at 87
ATLANTA — Thomas Jarrett, who spent half a century as an educator and served as president of Atlanta University, died last month of complications from a heart condition. He was 87.
His 50-year career in education included serving as president of the historically Black Atlanta University, now Clark Atlanta University, from 1967 to 1979.
Jarrett also was a professor at Georgia State University, taught at Oxford University in England and chaired the southern district of the Rhodes Scholarship selection committee.
“It was because of his personality and leadership that I have stayed with the school as long as I have,” Dr. Thomas Cole Jr., Clark’s current president told a local paper. “What I liked about his leadership is that he allowed the deans and the department chairs to be innovative.”
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