2 discrimination lawsuits against Emporia State proceed
A federal lawsuit that alleges Emporia State University discriminated against a black assistant professor after he complained about a racial incident will continue after a federal judge recently rejected motions to dismiss it.
BY MARGARET STAFFORD
KANSAS CITY, MO. - A federal lawsuit that alleges Emporia State University discriminated against a black assistant professor after he complained about a racial incident will continue after a federal judge recently rejected motions to dismiss it.
Melvin Hale, who is black, claimed that the school and several top administrators discriminated against him and his wife, Angelica, after they complained in April 2015 about finding a note with a racial slur near her office in the School of Library and Information Management.
The lawsuit alleges that after initially doing nothing, the university conducted a biased investigation and then retaliated against the couple, culminating with Melvin Hale being banned from campus. Shortly after the couple complained, Angelica Hale's job was as assistant to the dean of the library information department was not renewed. The Emporia-based university said in September that its investigation found no evidence of a hate crime or racial discrimination, prompting Hale to file his lawsuit.
Federal judge Sam Crow, based in Topeka, on June 15 rejected three motions to dismiss the case and a counterclaim. Crow also dismissed some of Hale's claims and released defendants, but allowed the lawsuit alleging civil rights and free speech violations to continue against the university and seven officials. A scheduling conference has been set for Aug. 10.
"I look forward to justice being served and letting others know that even if you have to pursue federal charges without an attorney, there is value in taking the risk to defend yourself when you know that you are right," said Melvin Hale, who is serving as his own attorney. "I relied on the court to give me a voice and I was not disappointed. What was done to me and my wife should have never happened."
Court documents indicate Hale is seeking $75,000 in damages, but he said Monday he has not decided the amount of damages he will seek.
The remaining defendants are Jackie Vietti, interim president at Emporia State between July and December 2015; Provost David Cordle; Judy Anderson, executive director of human resources; Ray Lauber in human resources; general counsel Kevin Johnson; Mirah Dow, interim dean of the School of Library and Information Management; and Gary Wyatt, former interim dean of the department and assistant provost.
Anderson could be dismissed as a defendant if proper service of process is not completed, Crow said.
The university and the Kansas Attorney General's Office, which is representing the defendants, declined to comment because litigation is pending.
About two weeks after Hale's lawsuit was filed, a former assistant professor in the same department, Rajesh Singh, who is of East Indian descent, filed a lawsuit accusing Emporia State of discrimination, retaliation and due process violations.Singh contends he was retaliated against after asking for pay equal to two other staff members, ultimately leading to his firing in January 2015. That lawsuit names the university, one former and one current administrator in the department, Cordle and former university president Michael Shonrock. Depositions are being scheduled in the case.
The Aftermath of the March On Emporia Resulted in Emporia State University, and seven of its top administrators, facing Civil Rights and First Amendment Retaliation Charges in Federal Court
9/15/17: For the March on Emporia 2nd Anniversary, we are sharing photos of the original event from September 15, 2015
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