Bias Suit Against Community College of Philadelphia Tossed - Higher Education
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Bias Suit Against Community College of Philadelphia Tossed

by Eric Freedman

A federal judge has thrown out a race and gender discrimination suit against the Community College of Philadelphia by an African American filmmaker who wasn’t hired for a full-time position in the English Department.

Brarailty Dowdell, who has a master’s of science degree in film with a concentration in filmwriting, began at the college as an adjunct English professor in 2003 and then became a tutor at its Learning Lab in 2006. He applied for a full-time faculty position in 2005 and was interviewed but not hired.

He applied again in 2014 although he lacked the required Ph.D. or master’s degree in “English composition or closely related field” or MFA.

Of the seven applicants recommended after three rounds of interviews, two were African-American women, two were White men, two were White women and one was a White/Asian/Pacific Islander woman. All had degrees in the required fields, according to the decision by U.S. District Judge Nitza Quiñones Alejandro.

Dowdell and a White woman without a master’s in a required field were the only two finalists not hired.

Dismissing the Title VII and Section 1983 claims, Alejandro said Dowdell failed to meet the educational qualification of a degree in a “closely related field.” In addition, the college’s review of his transcripts showed that he lacked at least 18 graduate credits in English, literature, developmental English or reading to qualify as “closely related.”

The fact that one administrator involved in the hiring process allegedly smiled during an off-color joke and that another administrator allegedly said that African-American faculty members didn’t support her was insufficient evidence of discriminatory intent, Alejandro held. One of those “stray remarks” was made eight years before the hiring process and the other 15 years before.

“Stray remarks by non-decision-makers or by decision-makers unrelated to the decision process are rarely given great weight, particularly if they were made temporally remote from the date of decision,” Alejandro said.

In addition, she said Dowdell didn’t show that similarly situated applicants who are not African American or male received more favorable treatment than he did or that the college’s rationale for its hiring choices was a pretext for discrimination.

Suit going forward

The University of North Texas must continue defending a Title IX hostile education environment suit by a former student who accused an adjunct professor of sexual assault, a federal judge has ruled.

The case arose from an alleged sexual encounter that the women, identified in the decision as “Jane Doe,” reported to local police and to a UNT dean. The adjunct, who was also a full-time university library employee, contended that their encounter was consensual.

The university reassigned his adjunct position during the investigation. However, he kept his library position although his work site in the library was changed, the decision said. He was also barred from two campus buildings. He resigned a few months later.

“Doe” withdrew from social activities for fear of running into him, became depressed, missed classes and her grades declined, according to the decision. The university also did not assign her a new advocate after its only Office of Equal Opportunity investigator went on leave, preventing her from receiving incompletes in her courses, the suit alleges.

In allowing the case to continue, U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant III said the woman presented sufficient evidence for trial on whether UNT had denied her educational opportunities, such as being able to go to school and the library, in its handling of her complaint.

Mazzant, who sits in Sherman, Texas, also found factual questions for a jury about the university’s response to allegations of post-complaint harassment by the adjunct and by a friend of his whom “Doe” often saw on campus.

The university argued that any harassment was neither severe nor pervasive and that “Doe” didn’t suffer more discrimination through its alleged deliberate indifference.

Library backed

An unsuccessful African-American applicant for a job at the Northwestern State University Library has lost a race discrimination suit because he didn’t show that he was qualified for the position, according to a federal court ruling.

In 2013, Dr. Leon Davis, who has a master of arts degree from Northwestern State, a Louisiana university, applied for an advertised job as a library associate but wasn’t one of four finalists interviewed, the decision said. A White man with a master’s degree in library science and extensive experience with computerized academic reference services was hired.

Davis failed to submit the required application letter or contact information for three references, U.S. Magistrate Judge Dee Drell in Alexandria, Louisiana, wrote in his opinion.

In addition, his master’s degree wasn’t in one of the required fields and Davis failed to supplement his application when the director informed him of the missing material, Drell said.

Quoting testimony from the library director, Drell said Davis’ resume “demonstrated that he was lacking in the appropriate education, experience and qualifications,” adding, “His lack of proper application materials, educational requirements and work requirement satisfy any requirement that Northwestern State had a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason not to offer an interview or the position to Davis.”

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