Afro-Am Professor Charges Race and Sex Discrimination
Josephine Wright, assistant professor of Afro-American Studies, last week filed a complaint with the federal Equal Opportunities Employment Commission (EEOC) charging that Harvard discriminated against her on the basis of race and sex.
Wright, who requested a one-year teaching extension on her contract after being denied tenure, may also sue the University, her lawyer said this week.
Wright's complaint is not that she was denied tenure, but that the Afro-Am executive committee turned down her request for the extension, which she says the committee routinely grants.
She requested the extra year to complete her research on Black American musical folklore. After being denied the extension. Wright filed a formal grievance with the University, charging that the executive committee discriminated against her on the basis of race and sex.
Under the grievance procedure guidelines. Wright may choose one member to the three-member hoc committee that will hear her complaint. Dean Rosvsky and Nathan Huggins, chairman of the Afro-Am department. select the other two committee members. But the committee rejected as "inappropriate" Wright's choice of Eileen Southern, professor of Afro-American Studies, and asked Wright to select someone else.
The committee's rejection of Southern, along with it's refusal to grant her an extension, prompted Wright to file a complaint with the EEOC and consider suing the University, Winston D. Kendall, Wright's lawyer, said this week. He added that Wright is keeping her original choice of Southern.
"They are giving us no choice in this," Kendall said, adding. "I don't want my client to end up facing an all-white committee, which is apparently what Rosovsky and the rest of the committee want."
Rosovsky was unavailable for comment yesterday.
"There is no good reason why Southern is an impossible choice." Kendall said. He added that the executive committee may have rejected Southern because Southern disagreed with the executive committee's refusal to grant Wright an extension.
Southern, who worked with Wright on her research, said last December that "it would be a simple matter to allow her to stay on an extra year." She added that the department routinely grants requests for extensions, often for "less important reasons" than Wright's.
Southern could not be reached for cornment yesterday.
Wright, who received a $77,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, said last December that her project would be "imperiled" if she was not granted the extension. Her Harvard contract stipulates that she leave in June.
But Huggins and the executive committee disagreed with Wright and Southern: arguing that there were no "sufficient and compelling reasons" to warrant an extension. Huggins refused to comment yesterday.
"The fact that these extensions are pretty routine and the fact that they turned down my client's nominee to the committee makes it obvious that they have singled her out for discrimination." Kendall said.
He added that Wright would wait for a response from the EEOC before deciding whether to sue the University.