UC Riverside case reveals storied history of racial turmoil
By Chris Levister –
The Regents of the University of California have retained the San Diego law firm of Paul, Plevin, Sullivan & Connaughton in a discipl inary case against Dr. Waymond Rodgers, a professor at the UC Riverside School of Business Administration. A preliminary hearing was held on November 28. At press time a hearing is set for December 12, 2011.
Mr. Rodgers is the only tenured African American business professor in the entire University of California system and UC Riverside's first U.S. Department of State Franklin Fellow.
UC officials accuse Mr. Rodgers of substandard teaching stemming from student evaluations. Officials also allege his part-time teaching and research at several international research institutions were unauthorized and violated UC policy.
According to sources, prior to the filing of the complaint, the UCR Committee on Privilege and Tenure determined that "Dr. Rodgers' rights and privileges may have been violated in denying his Fall 2011 and Winter 2012 sabbatical leaves."
It was Mr. Rodgers' world class research and international reputation on matters of corporate social responsibility, and ethical decision making principles that caught the eye of the U.S. Department of State which awarded him the prestigious Franklin Fellowship in August, 2010.
April 2011 UCR officials abruptly cancelled Mr. Rodgers' approved sabbatical blocking him from taking the Washington D.C. based assignment.
"It is unusual to have a university cancel a sabbatical after signing the Intergovernmental Personnel Ag reemen t (IPA). This has never happened," a State Departmen t spokesperson said. In an April 28, 2011 letter to UCR Chancellor Timothy P. White, State Department Senior Advisor for Fellows, Joanne M. Martin wrote: "Dr. Rodgers' leadership and expertise are essential to getting an important initiative off the ground. We look forward to him joining Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's team."
Documents dating back to 1989, obtained by the Black Voice News reveal a protracted history of Mr. Rodgers' UCR hiring and tenure battles at the business school marked by allegations of harassment, retaliation, nepotism, federal racial discrimination lawsuits, and State Senate hearings in which top UC officials, including then President Richard Atkinson, were grilled publicly over the alleged misuse of affirmative action funds designated to increase the ranks of women and underrepresented minorities in the UC system.
In 1992, Mr. Rodgers, who was then teaching in the business school at UC Irvine, was hired as a tenured professor of business at UC Riverside. A year later he sued the UC System for race discrimination in federal court.
"The case involved some bonafide allegations of racial discrimination and discriminatory compensation," said Mr. Rodgers' attorney Edgar Sanez. "We deposed the University of California president. We never got a trial date and they resolved it by a conciliatory agreement." UC officials denied that Mr. Rodgers was treated unfairly. They argued that he did not deserve tenure.
In 1996 Mr. Rodgers filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor. According to case documents, he claimed that officials from Irvine and the UC were determined to sabotage his career and "poisoned the atmosphere" at Riverside.
In September 1998, the Labor Department concluded, after a two-year investigation, that UC Riverside had in fact discriminated against Mr. Rodgers and retaliated against him because of his race.
The findings cited "the denial of merit increases, harassment, and job assignments". The report noted Mr. Rodgers was the only tenured business professor at Riverside's business school who was denied any merit increases between 1992 and 1998.
The Chronicle of Higher Education in a February 19, 1999 article "2 Business Professors Sue U of California, Charging Racial Bias and Retaliation," a UCR spokesman rejected the federal findings saying, "There was no discrimination of any kind...the Labor Department's findings won't be the last word."
University officials also rejected an independent expert evaluator's findings that Mr. Rodgers' teaching was competent.
The case drew national attention when UC Irvine professor Richard Brahm sued the UC. Mr. Brahm who is White, charged in his 1998 lawsuit that "he was denied tenure for blowing the whistle on the allegedly discriminatory treatment and disparaging remarks about Mr. Rodgers made by Dennis J. Aigner, a former dean of Irvine's business school." Mr. Aigner denied the allegations.
In a letter to President Atkinson dated October 6, 1998, then chair of the Senate Select Committee on Higher Education Admissions and Outreach, state Senator Teresa P. Hughes expressed concern about the 1998 whistleblower investigation report.
"These incidents of discrimination and retaliation against Professors Rodgers and Brahm are matters of deep concern. It is obvious that their careers have been harmed."
A1997 story in the Wall Street Journal: "Professor on a Mission Roils UC-Riverside School" chronicled similar allegations made by UCR professors Robert Auerbach and Sarkis Joseph Khoury.
Messrs. Khoury and Auerbach, requested a state Senate inquiry into complaints of racial discrimination against Mr. Rodgers and allegations of hiring a senior professor's wife through affirmative action.
According to August 1, 1990 documents, Senator Art Torres, Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on UC Admissions convened hearings on the campus of UCR.
"Mr. Torres was extremely upset over the allegations," Auerbach said in a phone interview from his Texas home. "The hearing drew a large crowd. There were guards around the room. . .There were many witnesses including the dean of the business school who said, 'he had nothing against African Americans and that he even had one as a secretary'," said Mr. Auerbach now a professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas Austin. "I am very surprised that two decades later racial discrimination is again affecting Dr. Rodgers who rose to the rank of full professor, is an accountant and is widely recognized for his world class research," he said.
Mr. Khoury who was demoted to associate professor from full professor filed a lawsuit against UCR alleging his demotion was in retaliation for standing up for Mr. Rodgers'.
University officials maintained that Khoury was censured because he received outside income during a sabbatical in 1988 - a violation of school policy. In April 1997, a Riverside judge ordered Khoury reinstated to full professor.
During a February 2010 UCR Black facul ty event for UCR Chancellor White, Rodgers publicly accused the administration of ignoring his complaints of harassment and retaliation. He alleged that under dean David Stewart, several highly qualified African Americans who applied for faculty positions at the business school were discouraged and subsequently withdrew their applications.
In July 2011, Mr. Stewart abruptly stepped down to a tenured faculty position after what he described as an "unwillingness on the part of the university's leadership to support him at the school."
Chancellor White wrote in an email, "we just need to move in another direction." Officials deny Mr. Stewart's move and Mr. Rodgers' complaints were related.
University officials citing personnel confidentiality have declined to discuss the case despite inquires from the Black Voice News, Assembly member Wilmer Amina Carter, D-Rialto, The Riverside Clergy Association and other leaders in the Inland Empire community.
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