March , 2019

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Kent State University Sociology Chairman uses the “f” word during an employment meeting with a black scholar

Victoria Sheppard

Akron, OH (BlackNews.com) — “I’m a white man, I can f___ up!” “I have a black brother-in-law. I didn’t like him at first, but now he’s my best friend!”

These were statements made by Kent State University (KSU), Department of Sociology Chairman, Richard Serpe, Ph.D., during a meeting regarding employment. According to a charge filed by Victoria Sheppard, Ph.D., with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC), “Richard Serpe, used sexual profanity and “footsie” with me, repeatedly, after I purposefully moved my feet. Serpe told me, “I could hire you… then he paused and tilted his head.”

Continuing, Dr. Sheppard charged Serpe said, “Your doctorate doesn’t mean anything. It’s a start!”Following this meeting, Dr. Sheppard says she went to her car and wrote down the details of the incident. Dr. Sheppard filed an official charge against Kent State University for sexual harassment and gender discrimination with the OCRC. Kent State University took six months to respond to Dr. Sheppard’s charge of discrimination.

“Serpe told me my doctorate doesn’t qualify me to teach at the university. The problem is, a terminal degree does indeed qualify one to teach at a university. Prior to my case, job descriptions on Kent State University’s Human Resources web pages, as at many colleges and universities, called for applicants seeking college teaching positions to be eligible if they were “ABD” (All But Dissertation). So, one could apply and be hired to teach college courses even if one had not earned the doctorate. After my charge, KSU changed job descriptions, now requiring applicants have extensive teaching and publishing experience. If we are not given employment opportunities, how can we have experience?” Dr. Sheppard said.

According to Dr. Sheppard, the OCRC investigator telephoned her at home prior to the end of the charge findings, stating, “I’m calling to let you know that I am finding no probable cause in your case. What Chairman Serpe did to you was wrong and inappropriate, but it was not against the law!”

“To add insult to injury,” Dr. Sheppard said, “after the case was closed by the OCRC, a woman who appeared to be Chairman Richard Serpe’s wife, “showed up at my home, knocked on my front door and stood boldly in front of me, staring at me with an angry demeanor. She never identified herself! She stood close enough that she could have harmed me!”

Dr. Sheppard said she is currently researching diversity in Ohio’s universities. Dr. Sheppard said, “Universities in the State of Ohio say they are committed to diversity, but based on the Workforce Analysis reports that I have obtained, the reality paints a different picture. They are hiring very few blacks at the highest teaching levels. They are hiring blacks to work in the cafeteria, maintenance, etc. They hire black professionals, but in positions that make the university look good. Directors of Diversity and Inclusion do not typically have hiring power outside of their office. Anyone can request Workforce Analysis reports showing these facts. As one local Diversity Vice President told me, These people a(at the university) don’t care about diversity!”

Concluding, Dr. Sheppard said, “This is how black scholars are treated at Kent State University! This is institutionalized racism at its best. It takes place at the individual level when persons of the dominant culture interact with blacks. This is how racism is perpetuated. I believe every black scholar, every black student, and potential KSU students, should know about this case, that this is how KSU really does diversity!”

Asserting the accurateness of her charge, Dr. Sheppard said, “The OCRC charge is a legal and notified document that makes me subject to perjury. This case is still open. I’ve been battling with KSU since filing this charge January 28, 2013!”

Stating she would like to see a national conversation about how racism plays out in everyday American society, Dr. Sheppard said, “I want to make sure that as many people as possible aware of how black scholars are treated at Kent State University. It is atrocious that a black woman, an academic, can be spoken to in such a despicable manner and no one seems to care! It is this type of attitude, the unspoken code that one can do or say anything to a person of color because his or her life is considered to be of less value in American society. Serpe disrespected me and told me my doctorate doesn’t qualify me to teach at the university,” Dr. Sheppard asserted, “As Michelle Obama said, the bar moves when we get to it!”

Dr. Sheppard is a respected member of the community. She led a July 2014 public forum with brass from the Akron Police Department and citizens of the city in a discussion about community policing and citizen complaints. She is also the former Executive Director of the Coalition for a Safe Community (Coalitionforasafecommunity.org), a group of local community leaders and activists who work toward building trust relationships with police and addressing incidents of alleged police brutality. Dr. Sheppard is a writer and scholar. She is the Executive Director of the American Education Institute of Ohio, an organization she founded to conduct research on and present public forums on urban issues.

Dr. Victoria Sheppard can be reached at drshepvctr@gmail.com

For a copy of the OCRC charge, contact:
Cleveland Regional Office
Vera Boggs, Regional Director
Lausche State Office Building
615 W. Superior Ave., Suite 885
Cleveland, OH 44113
Phone: (216) 787-3150 Fax: (216) 787-4121
TTY: (614) 752-2391

Photo Caption: Dr. Victoria Sheppard

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