It has been 18 months since USC researchers exposed “a palpable climate of anti-Blackness at Southwestern College” that included Black employees being called racial slurs and being overlooked for promotions.
And even though the San Diego County community college has taken significant steps to address the report’s findings, five current and former Black employees have filed a discrimination lawsuit, suggesting the problems persist.
The lawsuit references USC’s report and outlines the employees’ allegations, which occurred both before and after the report was published in June 2018 and mirror the researchers’ findings.
USC’s report highlighted individual instances — such as Latino custodial staff making monkey sounds at Black coworkers through walkie-talkies and a Black employee being relocated from the main campus because a white female coworker said she was afraid of him — that collectively painted a damning picture of institutional anti-Black racism on campus.
A student and employee survey conducted in March showed that 40% of employees felt there was a lot of racial tension at Southwestern College and that 50% of employees had witnessed discrimination on campus.
In response to this story, Southwestern College issued the following statement:
“Southwestern College takes pride in being the only public institution of higher education in Southern San Diego County serving a diverse community of students and employees. Southwestern College works to embrace our wonderful diversity and always strives to foster a collaborative and inclusive environment.
“Southwestern College has long had policies against racism and discrimination. The College will continue to uphold the highest professional standards for all its employees and will continue to build and strengthen equity and inclusion in the workplace. The College is committed to remaining a leader in San Diego County to ensure there is no place for racial discrimination in our community.”
Southwestern College declined to directly answer any questions about the lawsuit or make employees available for interviews. Instead, the college referred specific questions to an outside attorney.
“Southwestern College was made aware of the lawsuit that has been filed by current and former employees alleging racial discrimination in their employment with the college,” President Kindred Murillo wrote in a statement. “The College is reviewing the complaint, takes the allegations raised seriously and will address any issues in an appropriate and thorough manner.”
The outside attorney, Aaron Hines of the Winet Patrick Gayger Creighton & Hanes law firm, said he was still reviewing the 37-page complaint. The document contains several allegations and names dozens of individuals; therefore, it will take some time to determine their validity.
“It’s probably premature to comment on any specific allegation,” he said.
One of the most recent allegations is said to have happened in January. Brandon Williams, a 29-year-old Black man, claims tension between the counseling department’s Black workers and everyone else was so high that he was the only Black employee to attend a training retreat.
During a discussion on race, a Latino employee dismissed USC’s report by allegedly claiming that there “is no anti-Blackness on campus; instead, the campus is