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Report finds racial inequity at Manchester Community College

June 29, 2021 GMT

MANCHESTER, Conn. (AP) — An investigation into allegations of discrimination of Manchester Community College’s Black female employees has revealed a history and climate of racial inequity and abuse spanning decades.

The inquiry, spearheaded by Nicholas D’Agostino, Director of Equal Employment Opportunity for the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, found that over the course of 20 years “MCC has experienced challenges related to diversity and specifically race and gender,” the Hartford Courant reported.

The investigation began when Lucy Hurston, a sociology professor at the college and niece of the writer Zora Neale Hurston, raised a complaint about the mistreatment of Black employees.

Hurston said Black faculty at Manchester Community College experienced an almost daily barrage of microaggressions and hostility. Black female employees who moved to higher positions had their credentials questioned. While almost all of the faculty hired in recent years were white even though the student body is 40% Black and Latino.

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In recent years, tensions have escalated at the college when Black women were promoted and their qualifications were questioned by other employees, the newspaper reported.

D’Agostino’s report described two different instances were Black women’s credentials were publicly undermined. One of the incidents involved an email, sent by a former professor, detailing criticism regarding the Black employee’s credentials. It was sent to every member of the faculty and staff.

According to D’Agostino, the email constituted a violation of the university’s system information technology policy, which states that “using electronic communications to harass or intimidate others or to interfere with the ability of others to conduct (college) business is prohibited.”

D’Agostino recommended that the professor be reprimanded but no punishment was listed. Earlier this month, the professor retired.

Additionally, D’Agostino recommended that the college conduct an independent investigation to address and fix the inequity in hiring and the hostile workplace environment described in the report.

Jane McBride Gates, interim president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, said the incidents described in D’Agostino’s report were unacceptable and plans to follow the recommendations made in the report to improve the college’s climate.

Following attempts to address and change the environment at the college, Hurston and other Black professors have resigned from their positions at the community college, the newspaper reported.

Hurston said the environment began to take a toll on her mental and physical health.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities are investigating the college after Hurston’s complaints.