Black Experience

‘Reverse Racism’ Lawsuit Against HBCU Delaware State University Moves Forward

In the current state of the nation, led by President Trump, more white Americans are saying they face discrimination, including a former white employee at an HBCU who has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit.

A federal judge has denied a request by officials at Delaware State University to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Jeffrey DeMoss.

He has alleged, in his termination that restructuring was touted while three younger Black women were promoted to positions equivalent to the one he was losing. DeMoss also says a school official told him that the university wanted a Black person in his position.

He also claimed that he overheard former university President Harry Williams call him a “white fat (expletive)” in a phone call.

DeMoss was executive director for dining and auxiliary services and operations director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Center in 2007 and 2010 respectively.

The suit filed in 2016, is against the university as a whole, and against the president, DeMoss’s boss, Teresa Hardee, vice president of finance, and Irene Chapman-Hawkins, the vice president of human resources.

The suit names complaints of a violation of the Equal Protection Clause under the Fourteenth Amendment and racial discrimination with regard to his termination. Additionally, DeMoss alleged that he was “racially discriminated against and that the ‘primary purpose’ of federal funding DSU receives has been to provide employment and a non-discriminatory community of students, faculty, and employees.”

Initially, the court dismissed the complaints based on allegations being insufficient.

But DeMoss filed two more complaints, one of which mentioned the comments of Williams toward DeMoss that he witnessed on a speakerphone call, and another incident where Williams said that DeMoss didn’t get along with Black people. DeMoss alleged that a board member told him “it seems like the white people are being let go.”

Last month a federal magistrate Judge Thynge recommended denying the school’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, saying DeMoss had sufficient facts. This week, Judge Maryellen Noreika agreed.

Williams, who held the presidency for eight years, stepped down in 2017 and became the president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF). It was hailed by TMCF as a surprise announcement.

“My family and I are deeply indebted to the State of Delaware and to Delaware State University. This University and its community – students, staff, faculty, alumni, trustees – have given us more than we could ever have imagined,” said Williams in a statement.

“Every day I’ve attempted to return that same level of energy and commitment to the Hornet Nation, so that DSU takes its rightful place among the most important, diverse, and influential HBCUs in the country. While much remains to do, we have achieved our initial objectives and are now perfectly poised for the future.”

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