Professor suing UALR posts resignation letter online

LITTLE ROCK — Transparency is lacking at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, said Brian Mitchell, a history professor who filed a lawsuit in July alleging discrimination because of his race and age.

So after Mitchell, 53, decided to leave his permanent position, he said he shared with UALR faculty his seven-page letter of resignation, posting it Friday afternoon on a mailing list by email that university policy was created to foster communication among faculty members.

Mitchell’s lawsuit describes him as the “only black/African American professor” in the university’s history department, and in a Friday night phone interview, he said past requests made under the law on the state’s open archives had not resulted in full disclosure of the resignation letters. in which minority faculty members gave reasons for leaving.

“That’s what prompted me to put mine online for everyone to see,” said Mitchell, who started at the university as an adjunct professor in 2006 before being hired in 2015 as a full-time assistant professor of history leading to tenure.

A spokeswoman for UALR said late Friday that the university does not comment on personnel matters.

Mitchell said Friday that while he “loved the institution for my students and many of my colleagues, at some point it became personally and professionally too dangerous to work there.”

His letter of resignation states that his “fears are rooted in the widely held belief that the social climate at the university is one of pervasive and entrenched systemic racism and discrimination, and that the administration has been dedicated to cover up the acts of those who participate in harassment, discrimination and retaliation.”

The letter refers to the “disappearance” of transcripts and video of campus forums “in which faculty, staff and students described incidents of discrimination”, despite a request from what is called the Committee of black and brown faculty to have publicly available video of the events.

Mitchell, in a phone interview on Friday, said the committee had asked for changes, but “nothing was really done to improve the situation.”

Attorneys for the University of Arkansas system have filed a motion to dismiss Mitchell’s lawsuit, saying in court papers that his claims do not show “that he suffered adverse employment action, i.e. a material disadvantage or a change in the conditions of employment”.

Mitchell’s last day is to be June 10, according to the resignation letter.

He became known as a scholar of the 1919 Elaine Massacre, in which white mobs killed black Phillips County residents. The racially motivated killings began after sharecroppers and black sharecroppers organized to improve their working conditions.

Mitchell’s letter at one point compared university administrators to “Phillips County plantation owners” who sought to “keep black wages and advancement to a minimum”.

“Like the plantation owners, the university administration operated clandestinely from the shadows hiding their faces while committing despicable acts under the guise of their official positions,” Mitchell’s letter reads.

Much of his letter details multiple allegations relating to his treatment, including claims by an Institutional Review Board against him initially described as coming from a student but found to have been ” submitted by a member of the administration posing as the student”. to hide their true identity.”

Mitchell’s lawsuit gives more details about the allegation, outlined in court papers about whether proper protocols were followed in his research involving a document with entries from the 1950s to 1978 that named residents of a former center juvenile detention for black boys.

The university granted Mitchell tenure last year, according to court documents.

“It really broke my heart,” Mitchell said on Friday.

Asked about his future plans, Mitchell said, “I love my students, but the administration has really made my life a nightmare. Right now I have to take a break from teaching.”

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