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Five Southwestern College Employees Sue Over Alleged Racial Discrimination

 December 10, 2020 at 10:25 AM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 Five current and former black Southwestern college employees have sued the institution over alleged racial discrimination. This follows a report by USC that found a climate of anti-black racism at the college in Chula Vista. Gustabo Salise has reported on the issue for the San Diego union Tribune and joins me now, Gustavo welcome. And thank you Jayda. I appreciate it. You know, in the lawsuit, there are many examples of racial discrimination. They're all cited there. Talk to me about a few of them. Speaker 2: 00:30 Yeah, absolutely. The interesting thing about the lawsuit is just how many allegations that were ranging from petty microaggressions, like a black employee who was pregnant. She didn't get a baby shower, whereas certain non-black coworkers did. And she felt slighted for that, uh, to more serious things like being passed over for promotions or even being denied overtime, um, pay which, which is available to them through their union contract. And there are some more serious incidents of, uh, black employees just hearing the N word, uh, on campus. Speaker 1: 01:04 And what has the college said in response to this lawsuit? Speaker 2: 01:07 Well, not much, uh, which is standard, right? Anytime a city or, or a public entity gets sued. Uh, they declined to comment pending litigation. Uh, so specifically to the allegations in the lawsuit, they have not responded. I asked Southwestern for comment. I asked to speak to the president and even a couple of employees named in the lawsuit and they declined to have their, their staff speak to me, but they have spoken a lot more about the USC report in general and what they have done in response to that report. Uh, and specifically follow a set of recommendations outlined in that, right. Speaker 1: 01:43 As you mentioned, the lawsuit follows a study done by USC at Southwestern college a year ago, a year and a half, actually that exposed quote, a palpable climate of anti-blackness at Southwestern college in quote, um, remind me of the findings of that report. Speaker 2: 02:00 Well, the, the findings of the report largely mirror the allegations of the lawsuit, uh, as you described, right, it was that a palpable climate of anti-blackness at Southwestern college. And now when there are more allegations, the report didn't have specific names. Um, but there were some various serious allegations brought up, right? A Latino custodial staff making monkey sounds at black coworkers through walkie-talkies a black employee being relocated from the main campus because a white female coworker was afraid of him with no real reason to be afraid of the coworker, besides that they were black. So taken together, all of those, uh, incidents highlighted in the USC report did paint a pretty damning picture of institutional anti-black racism on campus, and particularly a racial tension between the black and Latino employees at the community college. Speaker 1: 02:55 The report included recommendations on addressing the, at the campus. What were some of those recommendations and has the college followed through with them, Speaker 2: 03:04 Which has largely followed through with the recommendations I want to say there were about 13 recommendations and they range from like one time actions, like issue a formal apology to black staff members, uh, hiring a consulting firm to review a human resources practices, particularly when it came to hiring and other recommendations are more ongoing, right? They're like making employment data more transparent, strategizing ways to increase faculty diversity and hosting quarterly forums on race. Uh, the university has largely done all of these and it's pretty transparent. Uh, they, they set up a separate committee to look at the findings of the report and kind of navigate a path forward. And you can see online the minutes from that meeting and kind of the progress they've done. Only one recommendation has kind of been stalled because of COVID and that's establishing a leadership development program, presumably on that would get already hired employees into more like management tracks and Southwestern college, uh, that one started this year. Uh, but it didn't really get off the ground because of COVID and has been stalled indefinitely until after the pandemic, Speaker 1: 04:15 An employee survey done by the college uncovered similar issues as the report and the lawsuit. What did the survey find Speaker 2: 04:22 Survey was done in March? Uh, so about a year after the UFC report and before this lawsuit was filed and it, it, like you said, it, it showed similar things, uh, that the report in lawsuit status specifically the results of that survey show that 40% of employees felt there was a lot of racial tension or Southwestern college. And that 50% of employees had witnessed discrimination on campus. Uh, the survey also found that a higher percentage of black employees were dissatisfied with employee diversity and black employees were least less likely to report positive experiences on campus compared to non-black employees. Speaker 1: 05:04 And despite the college following through on some of the USC report recommendations, you talked about the lawsuit suggests that the problem at Southwestern still persist. Tell me about that. Speaker 2: 05:14 Well, it does some of the allegations in the lawsuit came after the report came out and I mean, to be fair to Southwestern college that, I mean, these are big cultural issues, right? Big institutional issues within the college. So I think it's, it'd be unfair to assume there would be fixed overnight. Right. I think it's fair to say they required time to correct, but there are in the lawsuit, does allege a little bit of a tension or even, um, a dismissal of some of the findings of the USC report. There's there's one instance in which during one of the meetings and one of these tests forces to look at their report and change campus, one Latino employee, uh, dismissed USC to report claiming according to the lawsuit that there is no anti-blackness on campus instead the campus anti-Latino right. There was also an instance of one of the members of that committee. Uh, one of the few black members of that community, somehow colluding with us published that report, the employee who made that allegation of collusion was a Latino employee and made it at a black coworker. And the only information she had to go off was that both the black coworker at Southwestern, and one of the authors of the USC were black and had a connection to USC. Um, the re the lawsuit kind of points at that and says, quote, you know, that employees knee-jerk responses indicative of an us versus them culture at Southwestern college. Unquote, Speaker 1: 06:48 I've been speaking with Gustavo Selise former San Diego union Tribune, reporter Gustavo. Thank you very much. Thank you. Speaker 3: 07:02 [inaudible].

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Five current and former Black Southwestern College employees have sued the institution over alleged racial discrimination. This follows a report by USC that found a climate of anti-Black racism at the college in Chula Vista.
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