Fired Professor Again Sues Ohio University Claiming Racial Discrimination

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — A former Ohio University professor who was fired two months ago over sexual harassment claims has filed a new lawsuit against the university alleging racial discrimination.

Yusuf Kalyango, Jr.
Yusuf Kalyango, Jr. [File Photo]
Yusuf Kalyango is seeking more than $1 million in damages and is asking the court to require the university to reinstate him as a full tenured professor while the case proceeds.

He is also asking that regardless of the outcome of the case he receive one year of severance pay, which he argues was required under his contract with the university.

Kalyango first sued the university last September in federal court. He dropped that case a few weeks after the university fired him in early April over claims that he sexually harassed two female students.

The new lawsuit was filed May 24 in the Ohio Court of Claims, a special court that among other things hears claims against the state that involve contract disputes and employment discrimination.

Kalyango also filed a claim against the university with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, again alleging racial discrimination.

He makes many of the same arguments in his new lawsuit that he did in the first one. But these arguments are now supplemented with the findings of a two-day hearing by a special committee of the university’s Faculty Senate.

The committee was the only body that recommended Kalyango, who was a journalism professor, keep his job after investigations into two separate claims concluded that he had violated university policy on sexual harassment.

Following each of those investigations, a University Professional Ethics Committee was convened and reviewed the cases. In both cases they recommended Kalyango lose his tenure. This led to discussions within the journalism school, which resulted in the same recommendation.

Kalyango argued in his initial lawsuit the sexual harassment claims were false and the investigations and subsequent reviews and discussions were tainted with bias against him because he is Black and male. He also argued the university failed to follow its own procedures in virtually every step of the process.

In December, three months after Kalyango filed his federal lawsuit, the Faculty Senate special committee held its hearing and in its report embraced many of the objections raised in the lawsuit.

In particular, the committee said it was not convinced by the testimony of the two former students who filed the sexual harassment claims and that flaws in the investigations and hearings denied Kalyango of his due process rights.

The committee recommended Kalyango, who had been placed on administrative leave, be immediately reinstated to his status as full professor.

The university’s board of trustees rejected the committee’s report and asked it to reconsider. The committee instead came back with the same recommendation, for the same reasons, and the board voted unanimously that Kalyango should be fired.

Throughout the new lawsuit, Kalyango cites the committee’s findings to support his original arguments that he was the victim of a process that was biased against him from the beginning. He also argues, as he did in the original lawsuit, that white professors facing similar accusations at Ohio University have received substantially less punishment.