The historically black Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis, Mo., is on the hook for nearly $5 million after a jury sided with a former professor in her racial discrimination case.
The three-year-old case revolved around the experiences of Beverly Wilkins, a white woman hired by the university in 2001. After years of being passed up for promotions, several of which went to a black colleague hired six years after her, Wilkins claimed she was fired in violation of school policy.
Despite the fact that administrators claimed budget cuts in 2010 made staff reduction necessary, Wilkins – along with every other white employee with the exception of a lone tenured professor – was terminated instead of black staff members whose positions should have been eliminated instead.
Adding insult to the situation, Wilkins’ attorney explained that the ostensible budget cuts did not prevent administrators from almost immediately replacing her with a professor given a salary $15,000 higher than hers.
The school’s response to the pending verdict was to call it “regrettable” and hint at a possible appeal.