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UNC business school accused of racial discrimination in lawsuit filed by former Ph.D. student

The University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School was named in a new lawsuit filed this week by a former Ph.D. student at the school that accuses three professors of racial discrimination.

The lawsuit, filed on August 30 in federal court by former Ph.D. student Rose Brown, accuses Kenan-Flagler professors Michael Christian, Shimul Melwani and Sreedhari Desai, of racial discrimination and is seeking damages for the anguish and hardships she endured as a result. 

Brown attended the business school from late 2020 until June 2021, and says the discrimination against her by the three professors and the business school as a whole caused lasting effects on her career after leaving Kenan-Flagler and UNC.

Brown says the professors in her program, which studied organizational behavior, or the manner in which employees in a business create workplace culture, treated her differently than other students in the program when it came to things like granting extensions on projects and the direction in which she aimed to take her research projects.

When she filed her intent to research “code-switching,” the practice of changing one’s style of speaking when interacting with people of another race, the professors instead changed her project to focus on “Black-on-Black peer pressure in the workplace.”

After several incidents involving Brown’s requests for absences to travel for court dates related to two separate rapes she had endured in a short time, she was subject to an investigation by the school’s Equal Opportunity Compliance Office, which examined whether the program had treated her unfairly by telling her she was not a candidate for her Ph.D. three years ahead of when she was scheduled to form a dissertation committee.

The federal lawsuit claims the EOC’s investigation “ignored the initial focus of Ms. Brown’s complaints of racial insensitivity and discriminatory conduct in favor of a narrow inquiry into whether the review process was influenced by knowledge of the EOC investigation.”

Artur Davis, Brown’s attorney said in a statement, “This is not someone who failed and who’s trying to blame race. This is someone who succeeded and was still kicked out. And that raises all kinds of question marks.”

ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: NEWSOBSERVER.COM

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Laura is a freelance writer out of Maryland and a mom of three. Her background is in political science and international relations, and she has been doing political writing and editing for 17 years. Laura has also written parenting pieces for the Today Show and is currently working on writing a collection of remarkable true stories about normal people. She writes for FBA because unbiased news is vital to unity, and readers deserve the facts free of opinion.

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