Wilkes University Diversity Officer’s Firing Challenged By NAACP - Higher Education

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Wilkes University Diversity Officer’s Firing Challenged By NAACP

by Dianne Hayes

WILKES-BARRE, Pa.

The local chapter of the NAACP is accusing Wilkes University of retaliating against its former multicultural coordinator, who it says was fired because she refused to apologize to police after a traffic stop, as instructed by her supervisors, and instead filed a civil rights lawsuit.  

NAACP chapter president Ron Felton said at a recent press conference that he met with Wilkes officials to ascertain whether Andita Parker-Lloyd was a victim of discrimination when she was fired.

“We do not feel that Ms. Parker-Lloyd was dismissed because of racial discrimination, but we do feel that it was closely related to incidents that occurred back in February,” Felton said.

Parker-Lloyd was fired within days of a weekend diversity training retreat that prompted students to complain about the facilitator, Ron Feldhun. According to the complaints, Feldhun encouraged the 12 students to call each other racial slurs to lessen the impact of the pejorative terms. Feldhun was hired by Parker-Lloyd’s predecessor.

The dismissal letter from the university said Parker-Lloyd was fired for her “lack of professional judgment which caused risk to our students and the university.” 

But, Parker-Lloyd, Feldhun and the NAACP contend her firing was really prompted by the federal civil rights lawsuit she filed against the city of Wilkes-Barre. She was arrested for disorderly conduct on Feb. 16 after attempting to intervene on behalf of minority Wilkes students. The students had been pulled over in what they allege was a racially charged traffic stop. The charges against Parker-Lloyd were later dropped.

“We learned that she was asked to write a letter of apology to the city. After the story hit the media, she was called into the president’s office, not to talk about how to support her, but [to talk] about the university’s relationship with the city,” said Felton. He noted that the city and university use the same legal counsel, raising concerns that the two entities share common interests. 

Two weeks after she retained her attorney, Parker-Lloyd says she received her first poor performance review, along with a disciplinary warning for not being in her office enough.

“I was a one-woman office. They had access to my schedule,” Parker-Lloyd said in an interview with Diverse.

University officials have repeatedly said her firing had nothing to do with the lawsuit.

“Her lawsuit with the city was a private matter,” says Wilkes spokesman Jack Chielli. “Anytime you take an individual like Andita, it is a difficult decision for the leadership of the university. We take all of these decisions seriously.”

Felton’s press conference was prompted by an hour-long meeting held two days earlier between the NAACP president, Wilkes University President Tim Gilmour and Wilkes vice president for student affairs Paul S. Adams. Felton said he told Gilmour and Adams that his findings pointed to a retaliatory firing.

Parker-Lloyd’s attorney, Barry H. Dyller, says she is moving ahead with the lawsuit against the city and is considering a lawsuit against the university.

— By Dianne Hayes

 

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