Black Studies departmental rift spills over into lawsuit

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By Phil Brown, Reporter

A conflict within the University of Nebraska at Omaha Black Studies department that has been brewing for a year has spilled over into a lawsuit filed in U.S. district court against the university itself.

Akintunde, et al v. University of Nebraska at Omaha, et al, was filed in district court late last month on behalf of Black Studies associate professor Dr. Omowale Akintunde, and assistant professor Dr. Manfred Wogugu.

The suit stems from dissatisfaction on the part of the plaintiffs on how an internal departmental conflict was handled in February 2014.

According to the plaintiffs, after Dr. Nikitah Okembe-RA Imani, chairperson of the Black Studies department, became hostile during a departmental meeting last year, they feared for their safety and filed a workplace violence report with the university.

Akintunde and Wogugu found the university’s handling of the case to be unsatisfactory. The workplace violence report wasn’t forwarded on to the behavior review team for investigation until September, the suit alleges, and the Black Studies department voted no confidence in Imani’s leadership.

The professors allege the university has an ulterior motive in their handling of the case and their attitude towards the department, namely that the Black Studies department is being discriminated against because of its racial makeup and that the University intends to do away with the department as an independent entity altogether.

Melissa Lee, the university system’s director of communications and Sheri Cotton, who is representing the plaintiffs declined to comment on the case.

More information will come to light as the suit proceeds in court.

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