NCCU chancellor accused of racism at historically-black college

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015
NCCU Chancellor accused of racism
Three lawsuits have been filed by former NCCU University employees alleging discrimination and misuse of funds

DURHAM, NC (WTVD) -- Three former employees of North Carolina Central University have filed separate lawsuits accusing Chancellor Debra Saunders-White of discrimination and improper spending of taxpayer money.

Two of the lawsuits are in federal court. Marianne Murphy, who was a professor at NCCU's business school, and Francis Smith, who was Director of Graduate, Professional, and Executive programs at the School of Business, are seeking damages and back pay.

Murphy is of Cuban descent. Smith is white.

In her lawsuit Murphy alleges that Chancellor Saunders-White "engage[d] in race discrimination and retaliation against non-African-American individuals."

"[Saunders-White] - with the support of other African-American administrators and knowledge of the UNC Board -- frequently advises non-African-American employees that: (i) they have "no role" to play at historically black colleges like NCCU because they could never understand the "environment" at such institutions; and (ii) NCCU's employment of non-African-American female employees is ill-advised because they distract African-American males, who only interact with non-African American females because they want to [have sex with] them," reads the lawsuit.

Murphy's lawsuit also calls NCCU "so systemically discriminatory and otherwise unlawfully dysfunctional that its own Chancellor brazenly opines that the only two things historically black colleges are good for are "chicken and [female genitalia]."

In a response sent to ABC11, NCCU said it is reviewing the claims.

"The University disagrees with and plans to vigorously and aggressively defend itself against the numerous unfounded allegations contained in the complaints. NCCU will not allow such claims to deter us from our mission of providing students with a high quality education in a culturally diverse and enriching environment," the school said in a statement.

In his lawsuit, Smith alleges NCCU has created a hostile working environment for non-African-American employees and that the school regularly fails to investigate discrimination complaints.

"..complaints were ignored and NCCU instead retaliated against Mr. Smith for lodging such complaints, including by ultimately terminating his employment," reads the lawsuit.

NCCU said it plans to respond to the allegations in court.

"NCCU has an impeccable record of fostering diversity and inclusion within its faculty, staff and student communities. The University has a high expectation of excellence in work performance, accountability and transparency that are in compliance with the University of North Carolina system. NCCU maintains nondiscriminatory policies, practices and procedures that ensure the fair, transparent and equitable resolution of employment-related grievances," it said in a statement.

The third lawsuit has been filed in Durham County Superior Court by Kimberly Luse, who was Saunders-White's former chief of staff.

She's seeking damages for health problems she claims were caused by a hostile work environment.

Luse alleges that Saunders-White became hostile towards her when she reported the chancellor was using taxpayer money for personal expenses. Luse claims Saunders-White fabricated reports that she wasn't doing her job properly.

NCCU denies the accusation.

"The UNC system closely monitors all institutions' use of university resources. The Chancellor's accounts are examined and reviewed on a regular basis and are in compliance with state and internal guidelines," it said.

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