Former San Jose State Professor Settles Over Allegedly Racist Tenure Denial

Former San Jose State Professor Settles Over Allegedly Racist Tenure Denial – Brief Article

SAN JOSE, Calif. — A former San Jose State University professor who accused the school’s African American studies department of denying her tenure because she is not Black has won more than $206,000 in an out-of-court settlement.

In exchange, Cynthia Mahabir, a native of Trinidad and of Indo-Caribbean descent, has agreed to drop her reverse discrimination suit against the university, and to give up any claim to a teaching job there.

Mahabir, now a lecturer at Laney College in Oakland, taught for eight years at San Jose State. She alleged that department chairman Cobie Harris, who is Black, told a faculty meeting in December 1994 that “African American studies has no room for an Indian.”

Mahabir said the alleged incident left her with a “a hollow feeling inside…. He really hit at the core of my sense of my identity.”

Harris could not be reached for comment. However, he has denied the allegations claimed in the suit, which was filed in 1997 in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

University officials contend Mahabir was denied tenure only because she did not measure up as a teacher and scholar, even though she had received recommendations for permanent faculty status from three peer review committees.

A review of Mahabir’s scholarship showed that while she was an assistant professor at San Jose State, she had published only three articles and a book review, said Jessica Frazier of the California State University general counsel’s office, who represented San Jose State.

Frazier also noted that although the alleged remark about her Indian ancestry was a “linchpin” of Mahabir’s lawsuit, she did not report it until six months later, after she had been rejected for tenure in the spring of 1995.

University President Robert Caret, who made the final decision to deny Mahabir permanent faculty status, said in a prepared statement that “the university is confident that tenure was not denied for any improper reasons.”

The university agreed to the settlement — which includes payment of $100,000 in fees to Mahabir’s attorney, Jody Le Witter — to save the costs of any further litigation, Caret said.

“This has been a major struggle in my life, but I can now move on with my career and find a job in a more hospitable place,” Mahabir said.

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