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Couple Alleges Racial Harassment on a Kansas Campus

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — A black couple who have been working for a small university in eastern Kansas says the school is retaliating against them for complaining about a racial incident.

Angelica Hale, a dean’s assistant at Emporia State University, said she resigned in late July out of frustration over the university’s handling of the complaint. She and her husband, Melvin Hale, an assistant professor in the university’s School of Library and Information Management, said they have endured a hostile work environment since reporting in April that someone had tampered with items in the office of Angelica Hale’s graduate assistant and left  a racial epithet on a piece of paper.

Melvin HaleMelvin Hale

In a telephone interview, the Hales said Gwen Alexander, dean of the School of Library and Information Management, initially said she would investigate the incident but then did nothing and instead chastised Melvin Hale for complaining to a university provost and making a complaint to Emporia police. At one point, Melvin Hale said Alexander told him that he should “recognize that he was in Kansas now.”

“We don’t understand why (Alexander) wouldn’t want this incident investigated,” Melvin Hale said. “If she is genuinely concerned about our happiness being at Emporia State, she should definitely be on our side to figure out what happened. Her anger and attitude make it clear that she would rather not deal with this in any way, shape or form.”

The school issued a statement saying it’s following all its policies and procedures for such complaints.
“The incident is under investigation,” spokeswoman Gwen Larson said. “We will act accordingly when the investigation is concluded.”

Angelica Hale said Alexander had been pleased with her work since the couple arrived at the school in July 2014 and had suggested she would be in line for a full-time job after her one-year contract ended in August. Instead, Hale said she was recently told her contract would not be renewed, so she resigned. Melvin Hale said Alexander has suggested he might not be named director of the school’s archive studies program, which he said was the reason he came to Emporia after graduating from the University of California/Los Angeles.
The couple also says Alexander and many other employees in the school have been unfriendly and treated them coldly since their complaint.

The Hales said they plan to stay in Emporia, where they bought a house six blocks from the university, and work to change what they say are negative attitudes toward minority people at the school of about 3,900 students and few minority faculty employees.

Larson said the school has no tenured black professors and four who are on tenure tracks, out of a full-time faculty of about 253.

The Hales are planning a march Sept. 15 when representatives of the American Library Association are visiting.
“They will meet a group of people complaining about how minorities are treated at the university,” Melvin Hale said. “I’m done being nice. I’m done holding my tongue.”

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