Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Deja Vu in the Bayou

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Deja Vu in the Bayou

Article excerpt

Demotion of Black administrators and promotion of White administrators results in allegations of racism.

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Allegations of racism are once again surfacing at Baton Rouge Community College, but this time they are directed at a White chancellor instead of an African American one.

Interim Chancellor Dr. Sammie Cosper, a former Louisiana state commissioner of higher education, acknowledged that his reorganization plan at the college has caused racial sparks because it involved the demotion of several Black administrators and the promotion of several Whites.

"I had a meeting with some faculty members who accused me of being racist," Cosper, who is White, told the governing board of the state's new Community and Technical College System last month.

Despite the reservations of two Black board members, Cosper's plan was added to the board agenda as an emergency item and given final approval. The plan basically creates a new tier of four vice chancellors between the chancellor and the school's dean, several of whom are African American. The proposal calls for the demotion of a Black woman who was formerly the school's top administrator for academic affairs. As a result of Sandra Williams' demotion to dean for academic support services, she will receive a pay cut from $72,500 to $67,500 per year.

Several board members acknowledged that they had received anonymous letters complaining about Cosper's administrative shakeup.

One of the unsigned letters says Cosper's plan showed a "blatant disregard for Black administrators," while a second letter claimed that the reorganization involved "demotions for practically all Black administrators" who had previously reported directly to the chancellor.

The previous chancellor, Dr. Marion Bonaparte, an African American, was fired in August amid charges of discrimination by several White faculty members (see Black Issues, Aug. 19, 1999). Bonaparte claimed that several of the complaining White faculty members were seeking revenge. One of the White faculty members had been accused of using a racial epithet, while a second had been reportedly caught serenading a female student as she sat between his legs.

In addition to the faculty complaints, problems with the school's financial record keeping were also a factor in Bonaparte's dismissal.

In pitching his reorganization plan to the board, Cosper said the anonymous letters are a sign that there are still serious racial tensions at the one and a half year-old school.

"There are some problems over there, and part of the problems are what you are experiencing," Cosper told the board. …

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