Former Arizona Africana Studies Professor Charges Discrimination
TUCSON, Ariz. — A former associate professor in the University of Arizona’s Africana Studies department is suing the institution claiming she was a victim of discrimination, according to a story in the Arizona Daily Wildcat.
Tolagbe Ogunleye is currently awaiting a ruling from U.S. 9th District Court Judge John M. Roll, following an injunction hearing held last month to decide the merits of the case.
“I worked very hard over the last five years,” Ogunleye told the campus newspaper. “I don’t want to be pushed to the curb.”
Ogunleye v. Arizona Board of Regents is the latest dispute concerning Africana studies at the university. The program has been plagued with allegations of racism, sexism, and harassment.
Don Awerkamp, Ogunleye’s attorney, filed the lawsuit shortly after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released a ruling stating that the professor was a victim of discrimination.
Ogunleye says the EEOC ruling — the result of seven months of investigation and deliberation — gave her “ample proof” to pursue legal action against the University of Arizona. Her term as associate professor ended in May after the university decided not to extend her employment one year earlier.
If Roll rules in her favor, Ogunleye will return to her position until the case goes before a jury.
The lawsuit alleges that Julian Kunnie, acting director of the program, and College of Humanities Dean Charles Tatum discriminated against Ogunleye and harassed her because of her race and gender.
Controversy within the department began when Kunnie’s predecessor, Mikelle Omari, raised similar complaints against Tatum after he removed her from the director position in 1996. The EEOC also ruled in Omari’s favor, but she remains outside the department as an art professor.
Awerkamp said during the hearing that Omari’s situation shows a “pattern of discriminatory intent.” He added that Ogunleye’s support for the former director was a cause of the alleged harassment.
The attorney also pointed out that all faculty members, except for Kunnie, gave her sufficient ratings in an informal review. Ogunleye’s classes also had the highest enrollment of any Africana Studies instructor.
“We want [university officials] to undo what they did,” Awerkamp says.
Paul Sypherd, the university’s provost, testified that he ended Ogunleye’s term as a “tool of management,” with which he hoped to defuse a volatile situation in the department.
“Here was a nontenured individual … who I felt was contributing to some of the turmoil,” he said.
Minorities Having Problems Qualifying for LIFE Scholarships
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Black students aren’t the only racial minorities that had a tough time qualifying for the state’s new LIFE scholarship last fall. And LIFE’s not going to get any easier next year as standards rise.
About a quarter of the state’s college freshmen earned the scholarships, worth $2,000 a year at four-year-colleges, by having a “B” average in high school and scoring 1,000 or better on the SAT. While a third of White and Asian American freshmen qualified for the scholarships, 12 percent of Blacks, 19 percent of American Indians, and 20 percent of Hispanic students won them. Those minorities accounted for about 4,303 of the state’s 18,385 freshmen last year.
The average African American, Hispanic, or American Indian student scored more than 30 points below that mark on the SAT last year. African Americans scored an average of 821.
The lower scores contributed to the relatively lower award rates for non-White and non-Asian American students and led to calls from lawmakers seeking changes in the scholarship system, including reducing the SAT requirement.
But the LIFE scholarship law demands more beginning next year, says Karen Woodfaulk, the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education’s student services director. In 2000, the SAT requirement rises to 1,050 and students must take extra math, science, and foreign language classes that are part of a new diploma system. In 2002, the minimum score will be 1,100 along with extra class requirements.
The state added the SAT criteria after Georgia’s HOPE scholarship administrators said they regretted not including some type standard measure, Higher Education Commission spokesman Charlie FitzSimons says. The Georgia lottery-funded scholarship pays all tuition fees at state public colleges and universities for high school students with a “B” average. Just over a third of that state’s students maintain the “B” average needed to stay in the scholarship program.
But saying that the decision to begin using the SAT wasn’t a good move, University of South Carolina education professor and testing expert Lorin Anderson adds that the test is not as good a measure of performance in college as class ranking. “The problem is not racial,” Anderson says.
Minoroty Golf Tournament Changes Policy
WASHINGTON — Following the controversy surrounded this year’s National Minority College Golf Championship at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla., the tournaments organizers have changed the bylaws to give more minority players a chance to compete, according to a story in Golf Week magazine.
Historically Black Bethune-Cookman College won this year’s championship with five White players, none of whom are citizens of the United States. Jackson State finished second using a lineup that featured only one minority player. The University of Texas-Pan American, whose student body is 85 percent Hispanic, was not allowed to compete as a team at the tournament — despite its invitation — because the institution is not an historically Black institution. (See Black Issues, May 27, 1999)
“This just can’t happen anymore,” said Craig Bowen, executive director of the National Minority College Golf Scholarship Fund, which runs the tournament in conjunction with the PGA of America. “The intent of the scholarship fund has always been to help the minority student-athletes. We are going to help those colleges with minority golfers.”
The bylaw change limits tournament participation to historically Black institutions that field a golf team composed mostly of minorities. The rule does not include a specific number of minority golfers that a team must have.
Bethune-Cookman’s golf coach, Gary Freeman, is not in favor of the new rule. “I’m not putting any quotas on my team,” Freeman told The Orlando Sentinel. “We went out to recruit players to have a winning team.”
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