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A jury found last week that a historically Black college (HBCU) in Missouri discriminated against a white woman professor based on her race and gender.

As a result, Harris-Stowe State 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.

More from the Post-Dispatch:

Attorneys for Brennan argued during a five-day trial that university leaders made a job she loved nearly impossible by cutting her budget, reducing her class load and subjecting her and other female teachers to unfair treatment between 2010 and 2016.

“She (could) not figure out why this university that she loves does not love her back,” said attorney Nicholas Dudley, of the Hollingshead and Dudley firm, in closing arguments.

Lawyers for Harris-Stowe argued her concerns were without merit. They pointed out that Brennan was offered promotions and never complained about any discrimination or a hostile work environment to a counselor who was helping treat her anxiety.

“This case is not about race or gender,” said Harris-Stowe’s attorney Nick Lamb, of Thompson Coburn, in closing arguments. “Period.”

Brennan’s lawsuit was the latest in more than a dozen lawsuits filed by former and current Harris-Stowe State employees in the past decade.

That includes another white professor who in 2015 was awarded nearly $5 million from Harris-Stowe State after a jury found the HBCU discriminated against her because of her race.

In that case, Beverly Wilkins’ claims included allegations that Harris-Stowe State was trying to get rid of white professors, unjustly fired her and gave her replacement with a higher salary.

The Associated Press reported at the time:

Wilkins’ 2012 lawsuit focused on one administrator it accused of subscribing to the “Black Power” mantra and working systematically to purge Harris-Stowe’s education college of White faculty.

According to the lawsuit, Wilkins was hired in 2001 by the university’s College of Education, where Latisha Smith, who is Black, was hired to work six years later. Both were full-time faculty members.

While Smith was quickly promoted to assistant dean, then dean and later into the interim co-chair of the department in her first three years at the university, Wilkins was not promoted during her nine years at Harris-Stowe.

As the education college’s dean, Smith fired Wilkins in 2010, blaming state budget cuts, according to the lawsuit, which added that Harris-Stowe failed to follow its own policy when the school skipped over several Black faculty members and dismissed Wilkins instead.

Harris-Stowe State is one of two public HBCUs in the state of Missouri.

The other — Lincoln University of Missouri — recently received attention following the death by suicide of a beloved school administrator in an incident that also placed a spotlight on the topic of race.

Critics attributed Dr. Antoinette “Bonnie” Candia-Bailey’s death in part to alleged bullying by the HBCU’s president, a white man.

Lincoln students and alumni called for President Dr. John Moseley to be fired after Candia-Bailey’s death in January. Mosely was ultimately placed on leave.

However, the Lincoln University Board of Curators on Thursday cleared Mosely of any wrongdoing and fully reinstated him as the HBCU’s president.


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