Former UNC PhD student Kenan Flagler sues school for racism


A former UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student alleges racial discrimination and retaliation against the university’s Kenan-Flagler Business School in a federal lawsuit against the university, three of its faculty and the board UNC governors.

In 2020, Angelica Rose Brown – an African American woman – enrolled in the PhD in Organizational Behavior. business school program. But her time there was short: A year into the five-year program, Brown was told she could transfer to another program or come out with a master’s degree instead of a doctorate.

According to a press release issued by her attorney’s office, Brown was the only black woman on the doctorate. program and was expelled from the program despite good grades and high quality research.

“It’s one thing to fail and turn around and say I’ve been discriminated against,” Artur Davis, one of Brown’s lead attorneys, told The News & Observer in an interview. “It’s another thing to succeed and be asked to leave.”

Davis said it’s similar to how “many young African American professionals, whether they’re in academia, whether they’re in the corporate world, in the nonprofit world, they come up against these subtle stereotypes and they come up against these subtle glass ceilings, and sometimes not subtle, but very hard glass ceilings.

Brown was expelled about a month after reporting allegations of discrimination and hostile treatment in a complaint to UNC’s Equal Opportunity Compliance Office, her attorneys said. The lawsuit says the dismissal was in retaliation for his complaints to the EOC office as well as the business school’s diversity and inclusion program.

The lawsuit says officials also retaliated by spreading negative information about Brown to institutions she later applied to.

Following a request for comment, the university’s media relations office said in an email response that it was “unable to comment on the ongoing litigation at this time” and that “UNC-Chapel Hill strives to provide a positive educational experience for all of our students.”

Brown received the results of the investigation from the COU office. The lawsuit says the office’s findings “adopted faculty members’ factual representations of Ms. Brown’s versions of events” and “ignored the original focus of Ms. Brown’s complaints of racial insensitivity and discriminatory conduct.” in favor of a close investigation into whether the review process was influenced by knowledge of the EOC investigation.

Brown didn’t earn the doctorate from UNC, but she earned a master’s degree in management.

Allegations of racism

The lawsuit alleges that the school fired her despite her high levels of academic achievement and achievement and that teachers named in the lawsuit provided false and misleading information about her academic performance and collegiality during her graduation process. academic exam.

“The vague reasons cited for UNC’s displeasure with Ms. Brown are a thinly veiled veneer for ingrained stereotypes about black and female people,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit recounts situations that he says are examples of racially motivated unequal treatment. According to the lawsuit:

Brown, a survivor of post-traumatic stress disorder, reported to the three professors named in the case that she had been raped and sexually assaulted twice. (The N&O doesn’t usually name victims of sexual assault, but does so in this case because Brown detailed the allegations in her lawsuit.) For reasons related to those assaults, which occurred while she was enrolled at school, Brown demanded infrequent delays and delays in class deadlines. Although the delays were granted, professors later described a pattern of extensions as a performance issue during his academic review process. “PhD. The program has an established practice of allowing white and male students long extensions and planning accommodations for reasons ranging from personal crises to writer’s block without penalty or consequence,” according to the lawsuit.

Following the assaults, Brown was unable to attend a seminar because she was preparing to attend a hearing regarding a domestic violence protective order she had filed. Two of the professors named in the lawsuit were aware of this but berated her for not attending the seminar, even though it was not compulsory.

Brown was not allowed the usual latitude in directing research extended to non-African American students. She was tasked with shifting the subject of a newspaper article to examine intra-racial conflict in the African-American community, instead of focusing on the subversive effects of power dynamics between whites and blacks. in the professional world.

Brown was assigned to administer a field survey that paid black research participants one-tenth the rate of pay that UNC customarily paid for participation in such surveys.

Cases in federal courts have a long timeline and there is no guarantee that cases will make it to a jury.

“It’s going to be a long affair,” Davis said. “But Mrs. Brown understands that.”

The lawsuit asks that a court award Brown enough money to punish each defendant and “deter others from committing similar wrongdoing,” in addition to other factors.

This story was originally published September 1, 2022 1:11 p.m.

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