Murray State University, Kentucky
Filed with EEOC
Violation of Affirmative Action Law:
I applied for a job with Murray State University on the 18th of October 1994 teaching African-American literature.
On the 3rd of November 1994, Mr. Q, who identified himself as a member of the English Department at Murray State University, also on the Search Committee, called me at about 10:00am. Mr. Q directly asked if I was a member of the Baha’i Faith, and then said, "as a white male, or I suppose you’re a white male, you’re a white male aren’t you?" I had no recourse but to answer hesitantly "yes" as he waited in silence for my answer. Having achieved the apparent purpose of his phone call, he said, "Affirmative Action will work against you and you already know that." He repeated that statement a few times. At one point he stated the Search Committee would choose any African-American over me who was at least minimally "credentialed," suggesting someone who had my comparable level of education, an ABD in English, but without my major publications in, and experience teaching, African-American literature.
At least twice and maybe a third time, he told me he was impressed with the quality of my edition of Robert Hayden’s Collected Prose (The University of Michigan Press, 1984), which I had sent the English Search Committee in support of my application for a tenure-track position teaching African-American literature. He apparently thought that should mean something to me in lieu of fair and legal handling of my application, without the violation of Affirmative Action guidelines. He stated there was a lot of white racism that needed to be redressed and he was surrounded by it where he was in Kentucky. I told him I had interviewed for several African-American literature jobs and people were always shocked when I walked through the door. I mentioned I had met with this type of reverse discrimination several times before. I pointed out to him that if I were black people would be rallying to help me because I was clearly being discriminated against on the basis of my skin color. I went on to tell him he was confused because Robert Hayden, the most outstanding African-American poet of the last fifty years and former Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, whom I studied under at the University of Michigan and whose Collected Poems (Liveright, 1985) I’ve also edited, would have had unmitigated contempt for my whole reverse discrimination situation as absurd. Mr. Q said he would be an advocate for me on the Search Committee but that the English Department was composed of all whites, and they needed someone else, i.e., of color.
I told Mr. Q I would file a law suit with the EEOC, and later, at the end of our several minute conversation, I said I would think about it and seriously consider filing a lawsuit because I believe this kind of discrimination should be confronted in law out in the open. At one point he identified himself as also a Baha’i and apparently expected me to agree that discrimination against me and my career, and severely affecting my family, was acceptable in order to right the wrongs of the past. I stated to him that secular civil law and the Baha’i religious teachings in my opinion, which emphasize the oneness of humanity and brotherhood, along with the best black writers and thinkers (I thought of Ralph Ellison and Martin Luther King), oppose this kind of illegal discrimination. He said at one point we have to be patient, suggesting Affirmative Action would solve everything with time. I rejected the notion that this type of discrimination against me was justifiable and pointed out well-intentioned liberals can be as racist as extreme blacks or anybody else and suggested again I was the object of discrimination but no one ironically cared about me--someone who was highly qualified for the African-American literature job by his education, by having spent years of his life editing the poems and prose of a leading black poet, and by having taught the work of every major African-American author in American literature. I told him oneness of humanity should take precedence and be the highest value. At some point he had identified himself as a Baha’i, and he started crying and called me brother which I rejected as irrelevant to his violation of my rights to fair and objective evaluation. I said I was a human being and should be considered as such too. He said at one point that I was "embittered" and against Affirmative Action. I pointed out to him that I was not embittered and not against Affirmative Action but appalled that what I, as an individual, had achieved in my career, as well as my basic civil rights, meant nothing in terms of my being fairly evaluated for the job at Murray State University.
I believe Mr. Q violated my civil rights under Affirmative Action law by calling me to determine both my religious affiliation and my race. He directly asked me if I was a white male which left me no recourse but to answer under fear of being disqualified by not cooperating. The information obtained by him was then used either by himself, or also by the Search Committee, to reject my application for the tenure-track position teaching African-American literature at Murray State University, a position for which I am eminently qualified, including by Mr. Q’s own repeated acknowledgement.
I believe I was denied both consideration for hire and then the actual job itself due to my race.
I believe Mr. Q called me from an office phone at Murray State University, and phone records, if not destroyed, should corroborate that fact of my charge. My telephone number is (810) 853-6998.
I have waited nearly six months to file this charge because it is not my wish to damage relations between the races or be misconstrued as a racist myself. Indeed, I have spent the last twenty years of my life attempting to create mutual understanding and respect among all peoples by, among other activities, devoting a year of my life as a childcare worker to underprivileged emotionally impaired children at the Detroit Baptist Children’s Home, editing the writings of Robert Hayden, by teaching in Japan for a year and a half at Gunma University, by teaching for two years in Arizona on the Colorado River Indian Tribes Reservation, by teaching multicultural and non-Western literature for the last three years, by extensive study of China and five weeks in China last summer on a Fulbright scholarship, and by receiving a National Endowment for the Humanities scholarship for this summer to study the history and culture of India.
Because I am continually confronted with reverse discrimination, due to who I am and to what I have devoted my academic studies, I feel compelled by necessity to confront the repeated injustice of racial discrimination against me.
EEOC, St. Louis, Missouri
1 October 1994
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
St. Louis District Office
625 North Euclid, 5th Floor
St. Louis, MO 63108
Dear Ms. V:
My charge number is 280941087. There have been a few
developments since July 27 of which I should inform the EEOC.
First I must mention a few incidents related to my hiring.
On the day that I interviewed for the job at Lewis & Clark in
August of 1992, ten minutes before the interview with the entire
English faculty, B entered the room in which I was
waiting. She said a few words to the secretary and then
introduced herself to me. In retrospect, I believe she
intentionally, or in effect, came in to ascertain whether or not
I was an African-American because of my editing of Robert
Hayden’s prose and poetry. Since I was the last person of four
to six people interviewed for the job, and everyone else had
already been eliminated from the competition, there was nothing
she and A could do to stop me from being hired. The
only thing that could be done was to begin to maneuver to prevent
me from getting tenure in order to have a faculty opening to
replace me with a minority.
I further believe now the decision to replace me must have
been made the day of my hiring because of the rank at which F
was hired. When Dr. X telephoned me
initially about the position and invited me to interview for it,
she stated to me that a salary of $32,000 sounded reasonable for
someone of my experience and ability. It was with the
expectation of that salary that I agreed to interview for the
job. After the interview took place, the salary dropped to
$28,000. In retrospect, I believe the change in salary was due
to the fact that I am not the African-American she and Ms.
B were expecting and they immediately realized I was
therefore someone they would not grant tenure to. To my mind,
this explains why less than a month after my hiring Dr.
X called me into her office and told me emphatically that
only "exemplary" faculty members were worthy of tenure. The
decision had already been made at least by that early date to get
rid of me by fabricating a picture of me as "unexemplary." Among
other things mentioned in my charge, my personnel file was
falsified to create that impression.
The foregoing has partly been brought home to me by the fact
that F, who was judged by the entire English faculty as less qualified
than I am, who has published or edited nothing,
and who does not have my teaching experience, was hired at a full
rank above me as an Assistant Professor, even though we have an
equal level of educational background.
Another point I believe I should raise because of recent
developments is that I once quoted to B the words
of the African-American poet Robert Hayden: "Race is not
important, people are important." Little did I know at the time
how radical and extreme her thinking was on such matters and that
she would hold such moderate, reasonable views against me. At
the beginning of this academic year at Lewis & Clark, in August,
the flavor of B’s thinking on race, and therefore
about me, can be found in her own quoted words in the "Annotated
Calendar--Faculty Orientation," which was mailed to all faculty
members: "Redefining the canon, restructuring the pedagogy, and
validating the compelling essentialness of race, class, gender,
and ethnicity in our curriculum are imperative." Nothing could
be more directly at odds with the tenor of Robert Hayden’s
thinking and with mine on race. Her public declaration of "the
compelling essentialness of race," coming in the context after
the destruction of my career at Lewis & Clark, is a shamelessly
gloating assumption of victory on her part and evidence of her
destructively radical ill-intent towards me, ill-intent that Dr.
X used for her own purposes. It seems to me now on
further reflection that my right to Academic Freedom was also
violated here by both of them. I have enclosed a copy of her
words which I would like considered as further evidence in my
As a witness of the incident of A saying to my
wife "Is that your suitcase," I should mention, in addition to
J, the name of T who also teaches at
Lewis & Clark.
Lastly, I should inform the EEOC that Dr. X and
Mr. Y, among possibly other administrators and
faculty members at Lewis & Clark, may have made reprisals against
a number of faculty members who supported me and signed my
petition requesting the Board of Trustees to overturn Dr.
X’s decision to deny me tenure. At the very least, Dr.
M and Mr. W appear to have suffered serious
recriminations because of their support of me. If the EEOC would
like the details, I would be willing to write it all out.
15 November 1994
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
St. Louis District Office
625 North Euclid, 5th Floor
St. Louis, MO 63108
Dear Ms. V:
My charge number is 280941087. Several facts and documents
have, with the passage of time and the gaining of perspective,
begun to make sense, and I would like to add them to my charge.
A couple of months after I had been hired, shortly after
A had told me about the R incident, I lent
B a copy of my edition of Robert Hayden’s Collected
Prose . On the hiring committee, she had been the only English
faculty member to recognize on my resume who Robert Hayden was.
She kept the book for about a week or more and then returned it
with the enclosed "Campus Memo" asking the librarian to purchase
copies of his work, while a carbon copy went to the Chairman of
the Liberal Arts Department:
Our new faculty member, Fred Glaysher, has edited two
fine anthologies of Robert Hayden’s work. Hayden is an
extremely significant American writer whose work should
be included in our collection.
The significance of this memo is that it is documentary evidence
that she believed that I was a highly qualified person. In the
winter of 1994 she said to me once passing in the hallway, "It
must be a good feeling to have gotten a job because you’re
qualified." Earlier, on at least one other occasion, she said
this to me, acknowledging that I had been hired because I was a
highly qualified person.
In the fall of 1993, B attended one of my non-
Western literature classes that was discussing that day Japanese
literature, especially a couple of stories dealing with women’s
issues, one of Mrs. B’s special interests. The classroom
discussion was lively and fast paced with many students and Mrs.
B joining in. The only impression she could honestly
have had that day would have been very favorable. I remember
she thanked me for allowing her to sit in on my class, and we
both enjoyed continuing our discussion of various issues as we
walked together down the hallway back to our offices.
Nevertheless, B and A were very
quick to say goodbye to me after I told them Dr. X
had decided not to extend me the third year toward tenure. A
A almost immediately offered to write me a letter of
recommendation (enclosed), said I’d get a job elsewhere, and
suggested I try St. Louis Community College. Her enclosed letter
of recommendation is documentary evidence that she perceived me
to be a highly qualified person.
Shortly after the 31th of January, 1994, B
said ironically and ambiguously to me, "I know what it’s like to
be a victim." This deceitful statement demonstrates she knew I
was being unjustly let go and was conscious of her participating
in it, which explains why she did nothing to help me fight my
unjust dismissal. Her desire to redress injustice justified in
her mind anything when it came to me in order to get another
minority onto the faculty.
At the April or May English Department meeting, both Mrs.
B and Mrs. A refused to sign the initial draft of a
strictly Department petition on my behalf. Back pedaling, they
each claimed they did not know if I was a highly qualified
educator in the classroom. B, who had actually been in one
of my classes, and A, who readily extolled my virtues so that
I might go elsewhere, both equivocated and claimed they could not
sign first the general petition a few weeks earlier and then the
English petition. Only with long and strenuous debate and
persuasion were they willing to put their signatures to each
document. At the same English meeting, for apparently the same
specious reasons, Dr. Z refused to sign the English petition
and never did sign it, although with careful persuasion he had
signed the general petition. And yet despite his signature on
the general petition, he was the very person who had denounced me
to Dr. X on a number of occasions. Z, it perhaps
ought to be recalled, had said to me early on that I was the best
qualified candidate and that he had personally gone to great
pains to choose me.
In late March or early April, in my office, B
had informed me that she had decided to serve, as the only
representative of the English faculty, on the committee put
together by Dr. X in order to hire someone in my
place. She essentially told me my replacement would be black
when she said that some faculty members would feel any minority
hired was unqualified, and she expressed no compunctions about my
being a victim. I reminded her, as I point out elsewhere in my
charge, that I support the hiring of minorities, as I do. I do
not, however, support the illegal hiring of minorities by the
unjust discrediting and removal of whites, which I believe, once
again, is exactly what has happened with me.
Throughout the many months of my struggle attempting to
receive a just evaluation as an educator, most of my colleagues,
as the petitions attest, were appalled by what was happening to
me. My other colleagues in English were consistently appalled by
the unscrupulous behavior of B, A, and Dr. Z.
Again, B and A aided and supported
my removal for racial and religious reasons, while Dr.
Z aided and supported my removal for religious reasons. Dr.
X permitted an atmosphere to develop at Lewis & Clark
in which such illegal acts could take place. Far from exercising
a proper administrative control over such racial and religious
passions, Dr. X used them for her own purposes.