U. of Ark. Spokesman Files EEOC Complaint Over Termination - Higher Education

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U. of Ark. Spokesman Files EEOC Complaint Over Termination

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by Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.—Former University of Arkansas spokesman John Diamond has filed a complaint to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming that his firing violated his civil rights and asking that he be reinstated.

Diamond, who was fired Aug. 23, said his religion might have been a factor in his termination, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Saturday.

Diamond, who is Catholic, filed the complaint Nov. 14.

After Diamond was terminated, he sent a letter Aug. 26 to Advancement Division Vice Chancellor Chris Wyrick, expressing some of his complaints directly to his former boss.

“On the day of our first one-on-one meeting following your official start as vice chancellor, you exited your personal office with two other university employees and, when seeing me, pointed out to those present that I am Catholic and that ‘y’all travel in packs,'” Diamond wrote.

In subsequent interviews, Wyrick said he didn’t mean the Catholic remark to be offensive. He said he remembers asking “Is there a fish fry this weekend?” but he denies saying that members of Diamond’s faith “traveled in packs.”

“Ideally, the outcome of the EEOC filing will be my reinstatement as associate vice chancellor for university relations,” Diamond said in an email to the newspaper.

“Whether I get reinstated or not, I hope the board of trustees will do whatever’s necessary to fix the hostile environment that exists in Advancement and within other parts of campus,” he wrote.

The division has been the subject of several investigations since racking up a cumulative deficit of $4.2 million as of June 30, 2012. UA officials have said the cumulative deficit was reduced to $3.2 million as of June 30, but the division continues to struggle with annual operating deficits and has been shored up with millions of dollars from university reserves.

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UA officials have said Diamond was fired for insubordination during an Aug. 22 meeting with Wyrick, who replaced the former Advancement Division vice chancellor, Brad Choate, after he was dismissed in connection with the deficit.

“You became irate and confrontational,” Wyrick wrote in an Aug. 23 email to Diamond. “You made statements that my leadership style is ‘laughable.’ . In sum, I believe that your conduct in our meeting constituted insubordination.”

Diamond’s termination had nothing to do with his religion, said Mark Rushing, a UA spokesman.

“Mr. Diamond’s civil rights claims were investigated by the Affirmative Action/Civil Rights Compliance Officer for the University of Arkansas Division Of Agriculture, who determined that the allegations were unfounded,” Rushing wrote in an email.

Diamond said the federal investigation could take some time.

“This is a long process, unfortunately,” he said. “The EEOC office is expected to assign an investigator to my case sometime soon.”

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