A former University of Missouri dean claims that she was fired because of her race and her expressing skepticism over the university’s diversity initiatives. She’s now suing the school for wrongful termination.
Dr. Rachel Brown, former associate dean for student programs — responsible for recruitment, admission, and student life at the University of Missouri School of Medicine — alleges that the university didn’t like her criticism of the university’s singular focus on getting ethnic minority enrollment.
During the university’s widely publicized period of unrest in 2015, the School of Medicine was targeted by social justice groups for lacking racial and ethnic diversity among its students and faculty.
Following the protests, an accreditation review in early 2016 that “found deficiencies” in the School of Medicine’s diversity practices and treatment of students. Brown partook in a leadership training program to help resolve the issue, which she completed.
In response to the review, Brown recommended that the school find “external consultation about the issues of diversity and inclusion,” reports Campus Reform.
The 60-year-old academic says in her lawsuit that she criticized the school’s diversity initiatives as “fragmented and misaligned,” stating that “the single-minded pursuit of racial and ethnic minority applicants was unfair to other applicants and created legal risks for the School of Medicine.”
Following her recommendation, she was invited to serve on steering committees to address issues raised by the review. The overall steering committee was chaired by the dean of the School of Medicine, Patrice Delafontaine.
In spring, Brown says she “became increasingly concerned that she was being excluded from important conversations regearding diversity and admissions,” noting that Delafontaine ignored her communications.
In an instance, Brown says that Delafontaine invited her peers to attend meetings under her jurisdiction, but didn’t do so much as inform her that they were even taking place, or even invite her.
The lawsuit claims that the associate dean for diversity and inclusion, Dr. Warren Lockette, who was invited to the meetings, called for an “aggressive increase in the numbers of out-of-state students” to achieve racial demographics on parity with the whole of the United States, instead of the state of Missouri.
It further states that Lockette derisively referred to students native to Missouri as “bumpkins, hicks, and illiterates who lived in Hootersville.”
When Brown criticized Lockette’s suggestion to increase the “percentage of the ‘underrepresented,” stating that he would need a lawyer to look over his proposal, he accused her of “obstructing change.”
In October 2016, Delafontaine replaced Brown with Dr. Laine M. Young-Walker, a “younger African-American female who lacked meaningful experience in performing the duties of the job,” according to the lawsuit. Brown claims that the dean replaced her without consulting her direct superior, Dr. Linda Headrick.
When she first learned of his plan to sack her, Delafontaine told her that “the decision had nothing to do with her performance” and called on her to voluntarily resign. However, he criticized Brown for taking notes during meetings, calling the minutes “litigious.” When Brown refused to quit, she says Delafontaine removed her and issued statements claiming she resigned.
Brown contests that she was fired because of her race and her unwillingness to jump onboard the diversity bandwagon. The lawsuit argues that both Delafontaine and the School of Medicine “succumbed to outside pressure in removing Dr. Brown…because she opposed race preferences that had not been reviewed by legal counsel for compliance with the civil rights laws.”