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White HBCU Professor Wins Discrimination Lawsuit Against Harris-Stowe State University

A jury found last week that a historically Black, Harris-Stowe State University in Missouri discriminated against a white woman professor based on her race and gender.

As a result, the university was hit with a judgment to pay Beverly Buck Brennan $750,000 for what the lawsuit alleged was “a racially hostile work environment at the St. Louis-based HBCU,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Brennan taught speech and theater classes and was the director of the theater program at Harris-Stowe State while she was employed there from 1993 until 2017.

She alleged that after a new dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and a new provost for academic affairs came to the university in 2010, her job shifted. She claimed budgets for her classes were cut, her courses were offered less frequently and in worse areas of campus, the dean repeatedly yelled at her and other women and her concerns about these workplace conditions were ignored.

Attorneys representing the university argued that Brennan had been offered promotions during that period, including a role as humanities department chair in 2016, and she hadn’t complained of a hostile work environment or discrimination to a counselor she was seeing for anxiety, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.  

“This case is not about race or gender,” Nick Lamb, an attorney for the university, said during closing arguments of the five-day trial. “Period.”

The Dispatch noted that at least a dozen people have sued Harris-Stowe State University since 2012, including Beverly Wilkins, a white former professor, who won about $5 million in 2017 after she claimed the university passed her over for promotions and then fired her because she was white.

Brennan said she would donate proceeds from her lawsuit to the university’s theater department.

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