May 1, 1998
U. of Michigan Charged With Racial Bias in Tenure DecisionsBy ALISON SCHNEIDER
Once again, the University of Michigan finds itself fending off allegations of racism. N. Frank Ukadike, an assistant professor of film and video, sued the institution in March, alleging that his denial of tenure had been motivated by racial bias.
He's not alone in making such a claim. Three other professors -- two in the medical school and one in the business school -- have filed discrimination suits against Michigan in the past two years (The Chronicle, September 12, 1997 ).
Mr. Ukadike, who has a joint appointment in Michigan's film-studies program and in the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies, says his tenure review was tainted by due-process violations, bias, intimidation, and harassment.
According to his suit, Gaylyn Studlar, director of the film program and a defendant in the case, peopled the tenure committee with professors who were biased against Mr. Ukadike. The director also arranged during his tenure review for professors to observe Mr. Ukadike's class on 18 occasions -- an unheard-of amount, the suit charges.
Mr. Ukadike said that 14 outside reviewers recommended him for tenure, as did a group of departmental reviewers. Professors in the African-studies center also initially recommended him for tenure, in a straw vote, but changed their minds -- because of pressure from the center's director, Mr. Ukadike alleges -- after the film program voted to deny him tenure.
"No one is saying that I am not a good scholar or teacher," he says. "Why am I being kicked out?"
Mr. Ukadike, the only professor at Michigan who teaches third-world cinema, thinks the answer is clear. He contends that no black faculty members hired as assistant professors from 1990 to 1996 under the "Michigan Mandate" -- a plan started by the former president, James Duderstadt, to improve diversity -- have been tenured.
"There's been a systematic dumping of black people at Michigan," Mr. Ukadike says. "It's a pattern. No matter how accomplished you are, you don't get tenure. Is it a racist environment? There's no doubt about it." He has created a site on the World-Wide Web to help make his case (http://lets-be-frank.com).
Lisa Baker, a university spokeswoman, takes issue with Mr. Ukadike's view, noting that some 43 black professors were tenured from 1991 to 1996. "We don't believe Mr. Ukadike was discriminated against," she says. "We're confident in the fairness of the promotion-and-tenure-review process at the university.%quot;
[Click here for a statistical commentary on the assertions of Ms. Baker and Professor Ukadike.]
Copyright (c) 1998 by The Chronicle of Higher Education
Section: The Faculty