The city in Michigan that gave birth to General Motors and that usually gets into the news because of its perennially high murder rate is now facing yet another spate of charges alleging racial discrimination at a public institution.
At a meeting of the Board of Trustees of Mott Community College in Flint, Chulindra Cooks offered a statement in which she alleged harassment and retaliation based on her race and medical condition. In her prepared statement, Cooks said “I allege that all of my harassment complaints have been mishandled which has led to additional harassment and retaliation. I allege that if I were a white employee, I would have receive a transfer out of my hostile work environment.”
The complaint declared that treatment allegedly meted out to Cooks by Mott Community College staff are in violation of Board policy 5202. She named college staff members Dale Weighill, Amy Fugate and Mark Kennedy. Among Cooks’ allegations is that Fugate made “derogatory comments about black students,” and “racially insensitive comments to me.” Furthermore, Cooks’ says that there exists an “environment of racial discrimination against black employees” at the college. She alleges “Black employees are note promoted at the same rate as white employees and there are no black employees in leadership positions.”
Dale K. Weighill is the Executive Dean of Professional Development & Experiential Learning at Mott, and has been a fixture in politics and non-profit organizations in Flint. He is a former Democratic candidate for mayor. Amy Fugate is Vice-President for Academic Affairs, and Mark Kennedy is Chief Human Resources Officer.
At the Board of Trustees meeting, Dr. Beverly M. Bliesath also provided a statement in support of Cooks in which she also alleged “what looks like blatant racism, threats, intimidation, and character assassination” of Cooks. Bliesath characterized Cooks as a veteran of the Air Force and a Mott Community College employee. In support of Cooks, Bliesath also wrote “She is currently on medical leave, due to the terrible way she has been treated and is not allowed on campus.”
In January of this year, Bliesath received a letter from Lenore Croudy, who chairs the college board of trustees, in which the board asserted that complaints submitted in the past by Bliesath were found to be “without merit” by an outside counsel. It also noted that Bliesath alleged racial discrimination at the college but that the persons Bliesath had alleged to feel the same way did not bring such concerns to the board despite an invitation to do so.
Bliesath has been a faculty member in the business department at the college.
Alleged racism at Flint hospital
Over the last week, Flint was the scene of demonstrations condemning alleged racial discrimination at another public institution. In a suit filed in Genesee County Circuit Court by a Hurley Medical Center nurse, Tonya Battle, it was claimed that nursing staff at the hospital refused to allow her to treat an infant in the neonatal intensive care unit because she is an African American.
Battle’s suit claimed that she was working in the unit and caring for a newborn on October 31, 2012, when the baby’s father asked to speak to her supervisor. Battle alleged that the father showed her a swastika tattoo on his arm. After this encounter, Battle alleged that the baby was reassigned to another nurse. Furthermore, she alleged that notice was placed in the ward asking African-American nurses not to treat white babies. The suit has since moved, at the hospital’s request, to a federal court.
Hurley denied the claim that has attracted attention from across the U.S., and demonstrations by the National Action Network, which is led by veteran agitator Al Sharpton. A notice of removal filed in U.S. District Court declared that Battle claimed the hospital had a duty not to purposely interfere with her federally protected Constitutional rights, particularly the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Arguing for the hospital, Attorney Joan N. Pierson said in the federal court filing that U.S. District Court has jurisdiction over the nurse’s constitutional claim and may also assume jurisdiction over her claims under state law.
National Action Network activists, who had planned to protest outside the hospital on February 25, met instead with the hospital CEO and other hospital officials.
A second and similar suit was filed by another nurse against the hospital on February 21.