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Professors Allege Discrimination, Retaliation and Hostile Climate at U Michigan

March 9, 2017
 
 

Two professors are suing the University of Michigan for discrimination based on race, gender and marital status and retaliation for voicing their concerns, among other counts. Their joint complaint, filed in a county court, alleges that the university’s stated commitments to diversity are superficial, and that institutional racism and a hostile campus climate for underrepresented faculty members and students of color persist. Scott Kurashige, a onetime tenured professor of American culture at Michigan, says he was terminated from his position as director of the Asian/Pacific Islander American studies program in 2014 after asking his dean for equitable retention packages for three faculty members. Eventually, he says, he was forced out of his faculty position in a campaign of retaliation for complaining about institutional equity issues.

Kurashige's wife, Emily Lawsin, a longtime lecturer in American culture and women’s studies at Michigan, says she was laid off with no prior notice in 2015, while she was on protected leave caring for their baby with Down syndrome. Lawsin fought the layoff, but was again barred from teaching this year, she says. Both professors are requesting immediate reinstatement, damages and injunctive relief to stop the alleged discrimination on campus.

Rick Fitzgerald, university spokesperson, said via email that Michigan “will vigorously defend the university against this lawsuit,” and that it’s already filed a motion to dismiss much of the complaint.

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