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Marchers Claim Emory Is A Hotbed Of Racism

November 17, 1987 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) _ Some Emory University students are protesting what they call widespread racism on campus and are demanding tenure for a black female teacher who had been denied that status.

Emory officials said the decision on tenure, or permanent employment, for Sondra O’Neale was a routine personnel decision handled through normal channels in a normal way.

About 500 students attended a rally Monday. Christie Harrison, a student from New Orleans, said a legal defense committee has gathered more than 1,400 signatures in support of Miss O’Neale.

Atlanta City Councilman Jabari Simama, an Emory graduate, said the committee is asking that Miss O’Neale be given tenure, that more black professors be hired and that the school take affirmative action to recruit more black students.

Miss O’Neale has taught in the English department at Emory since 1979 and is scheduled to continue through the end of the academic year next June. She has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and says she plans to file suit against Emory.

Simama said Miss O’Neale, who specializes in black studies, was twice voted Emory Teacher of the Year by the Black Student Alliance.

He told the rally the board of trustees declined to meet with the committee.

The issue goes beyond Miss O’Neale’s tenure, said C.T. Vivian, chairman of the the Center for Democratic Renewal, which investigates right-wing racial violence.

″It doesn’t matter how much ... intelligence you have or how much education you have, if you are a black woman, you don’t count,″ he told the rally.

″If she, who has a Ph.D. in an institution of higher learning, can’t get anywhere, what chance have you got?″ he asked the protesters, most of them black.

Robert Ethridge, an assistant vice president at Emory and the head of equal opportunity programs at the private Atlanta school, said the decision on tenure was made by a committee and processed normally.

He said it is a personnel matter and the school as a matter of policy does not discuss such matters publicly.

Her advocates say Miss O’Neale, 48, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Kentucky, has published more articles and books than some white women who were granted tenure.

A letter of appeal from her to the School of Arts and Sciences says the tenure committee questioned not the amount but the quality of her scholarship and research.

Ethridge said Miss O’Neale has been the only black faculty member from the School of Arts and Sciences denied tenure since 1981. Six others were granted tenure, he said.

School figures show that, of Emory’s 177 tenured faculty members, seven are black. About 7 percent of the school’s 8,353 students are black.