by Greta Mart
Protesting what he describes as a long history of racial discrimination on the Diablo Valley College campus, a former DVC adjunct professor plans to resume picketing in front of the Contra Costa Community College District in Martinez this morning, as he’s done twice a week since mid-April.
Samuel Tharpe said Monday he has stopped teaching classes at another Contra Costa community college in order to spend all of his time working to bring attention to “how blacks are being treated on that [DVC] campus,” after a lawsuit he filed against DVC was dismissed by a U.S. District Court judge last September.
Tharpe avowed yesterday that he plans to file another lawsuit in the coming weeks and that he’s “not going anywhere.”
According to an employment discrimination complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Oakland Division on June 2, 2011, Tharpe claimed that he was “let go” from teaching an African-American-centered psychology course at DVC in 2010 after he wrote a letter on behalf of an African-American colleague. In another court document, Tharpe stated he complained to the school’s president about being required to “share a teaching position with another instructor.”
In her order dismissing the suit, U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong wrote, “Plaintiff claims he was terminated on account of his race and subjected to retaliation for engaging in unspecified protected activity. In his Complaint, Plaintiff articulates the basis for his discrimination and retaliation claims as follows: On March – 2nd – 2010 [sic], I was asked to write a letter for a coworker. One morning I saw his [sic] standing outside the instructor longue [sic] staring at Mr. Robert Moore; while he was performing his duties, it looked very unusual [sic] it had that Master [sic] slave effect on me. On March 25th 2010, I found out I was no longer employed there. I felt it was a case of Retaliation [sic]. I believe that I have been discriminated against because of my race and color, violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. I believe I have been Retaliated [sic] against for engaging in a protected activity, in Violation [sic] of this statue [sic]. Plaintiff does not specify his race or color (though his opposition states that he is African-American), the reasons why he believes he was subjected to discrimination or the person or persons involved in such conduct. Nor does he identify the basis for his retaliation claim or the protected activity in which he was engaging.”
Although he said he didn’t have the exact dates in front of him, Tharpe reiterated in a phone interview yesterday that sometime after he started teaching at DVC in 2008, he observed the manager of the campus’s food service department conducting “illegal surveillance” of one of the food service department employees, Robert Moore. Moore, an African-American, allegedly asked Tharpe to write a letter to the administrator reporting this surveillance. In the letter, Tharpe said he complained of on-going racial discrimination on the campus. Because of his speaking out, he said, DVC officials retaliated by firing him.
Judge Armstrong disagreed, stating: “Like his discrimination claim, Plaintiff’s retaliation claim is deficiently pled. First, the Complaint summarily states that the Plaintiff was ‘retaliated against for engaging in a protected activity,’ without describing the protected activity at issue … Second, Plaintiff’s vague account of the events leading to his termination fails to demonstrate any connection between the protected activity and the adverse employment action, i.e., his termination. Given the insufficient and conclusory nature of the allegations supporting Plaintiff’s retaliation claim, the Court dismisses this claim with leave to amend.”
“The District absolutely denies there was any racial component to this,” said Contra Costa Community College District Vice Chancellor Gene Huff in a phone interview Monday.
Huff said that the District hires thousands of part-time, adjunct faculty members to teach courses during any given semester, and there is no guarantee of ongoing employment with the District.
“As late as last year, [Tharpe] was teaching at Contra Costa College,” Huff pointed out, referring to one of the three main community colleges operated by the District. “He also taught courses at DVC related to a specific grant-funded program. That program ceased and the courses related to that program were no longer taught. I don’t know if he was offered classes at DVC, but we certainly did not terminate [Tharpe].”
Huff said he couldn’t “get into more specifics, as the matter is still open in the courts.”
Tharpe said he plans to continue protesting in front of the District’s headquarters because “the guy I stood up for is still fighting.”
Huff confirmed that Moore remains employed at DVC, and Tharpe acknowledged that Moore was never fired from DVC, although a bottled water jug “fell on his foot,” and Moore is currently out on disability leave.
“They really did us wrong,” stressed Tharpe, adding that he is also protesting the fact that DVC’s executive council boasts no African-American members and that his friend Moore “was denied overtime pay when everybody else was getting overtime pay.”
Tharpe’s name continues to be listed among current Social Sciences faculty members at Contra Costa College, and when asked why he was claiming to have been fired by the District when he was still listed as an active faculty member, Tharpe said he decided not to teach classes last semester because “doing what I’m doing is more important to me. I have to march for justice for my people. I only had one or two classes [offered to me].”