Wright Drops Discrimination Complaint

Accepts Research Post at Dubois Institute

Josephine P. Wright, a former assistant professor of Afro-American Studies who filed a discrimination complaint against Harvard last spring, recently dropped the complaint after accepting a research appointment at the W.E.B. Dubois Institute for Afro-American Research.

Last year, after being denied tenure, Wright requested a one-year teaching extension of her contract, which would enable her to finish a government-sponsored research project on Black American musical folklore.

When the Afro-Am executive committee turned down her request--a move she said would "imperil" her $77,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant--Wright filed a complaint with the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EOEC) and threatened to sue the University, charging that it had discriminated against her on the basis of race and sex.

Wright dropped her complaint last summer, after she was offered a one-year appointment to the W.E.B. Dubois Institute for Afro-American Research, a Harvard affiliate, Winston D. Kendall, her lawyer, said yesterday.

When Wright originally asked for an extension of her contract, Nathan I. Huggins, Dubois Professor of History and Afro-American Studies and chairman of the Afro-Am Department and the executive committee, denied the request on the grounds that there were not "sufficient and compelling reasons" to warrant the measure.


"I think (the decision to offer Wright a research appointment) had a lot to do with the fact that she filed a complaint." Kendall said, but added, "Of course, we'll never know."

Huggins, who is also director of the Dubois Institute, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Although Wright's Dubois position will give her the time she needs to complete her project, Kendall said his client had "mixed feelings" about the appointment. "It's the best of a bad situation," he added.

Wright could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Before filing the complaint with the EOEC last April, Wright filed a formal grievance with the University, charging the Afro-Am executive committee with discrimination on the basis of race and sex.

Under Harvard's grievance procedure guidelines, Wright was allowed to choose one member of the three-member ad hoc committee that would hear her complaint. Dean Rosovsky and Huggins were to select the other two committee members.

Rosovsky declined to comment last night.

But the committee rejected as "inappropriate" Wrights' choice of Eileen Southern, professor of Afro-American Studies and Music, and asked Wright to select someone else.

This action along with the executive committee's refusal to grant her an extension, prompted Wright to file a complaint with the EEOC and consider suing the University.

In her federal complaint, Wright argued that the committee routinely grants extensions of faculty contracts, an assertion that Southern supported.

"It would be a simple matter to allow her to stay on an extra year," Southern, who worked with Wright on her research, said last December. She added that the department routinely grants requests for extensions, often for "less important reasons" than Wright's.

Southern said yesterday she is working with Wright on her project, and is very glad Wright was able to stay at the University in some capacity.

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