Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Report Addresses Allegations of Racism at Florida Law School

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Report Addresses Allegations of Racism at Florida Law School

Article excerpt

GAINESVILLE, FLA.

A consultant's report on racial issues at the University of Florida College of Law says the school's major problem is a "culture of name calling" in which professors lash out at each other through e-mail and in faculty meetings.

"Everyone, almost without exception, complained about a general lack of collegiality that affected every aspect of institutional life," wrote mediator John Sands.

Sands, a New York lawyer, who has mediated more than 3,000 cases over 30 years, was hired in October to compile a report on allegations of racism at the Levin College of Law. He interviewed 65 administrators, current and former faculty members, students and staff.

Associate Dean Kenneth Nunn resigned from his administrative position in September, citing the law school's inability to retain Black faculty members (see Black Issues, Oct. 12, 2000).

At the time, Nunn was the only Black full-time professor among the school's 54 full-time faculty members. The law school has since hired two more Black faculty members.

Saying that the atmosphere at the law school was "inhospitable to African Americans," law Dean Jon Mills hired Sands to investigate the problem and suggest solutions.

In his final report released earlier this month, Sands praises law school faculty for making improvements in race relations over the past few months.

"We have a lot left to do," Mills says. "We want to confront it in an upfront manner."

The report shows the law school as an institution torn apart by interpersonal conflicts.

"Many of the complaints expressed to me by minority faculty and students involved incidents of disparate treatment that they took to be racist and for which the actors denied racial motivation and accused the complainers of hypersensitivity or `playing the race card,'" Sands wrote.

Nunn says he feels vindicated by the report and that the law school had ample warning of its "collegiality" problem. …

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