An attorney for the California State University system is conducting a review of hiring practices at San Francisco State University following allegations of racial bias and discrimination, CSU Chancellor Timothy White said Friday.
While the SFSU administration has long been in conflict with the College of Ethnic Studies over budget issues and — most recently — hiring two faculty members, the review will be the first independent examination of the dispute.
Gary Lafayette, a San Francisco-based attorney with “extensive experience” in discrimination cases, will perform the third-party review of the claims to determine the underlying facts and issues in the case, White wrote in an email to various SFSU employees.
“What I’m doing is still preliminary,” Lafayette said when reached by phone. “[I’m] trying to wrap my hands around the nature of the dispute.”
On April 29, the chairs of the College of Ethnic Studies wrote to the chancellor and other state officials, claiming SFSU administrators retaliated against black students and its Department of Africana Studies for protesting “budget reductions” in Ethnic Studies.
Ethnic Studies was recently at the center of turmoil on campus after reserve funding used to close the college’s annual deficit dried up, which faculty and students chalked up to budget cuts.
Students ended a 10-day hunger strike May 11 under a compromise with SFSU President Leslie Wong, who agreed to designate an additional $482,806 for Ethnic Studies, including funding for the two positions in Africana Studies.
Yet the call for an investigation from the Ethnic Studies chairs still remained.
In their email to state officials, the chairs charged the university with refusing to adequately fund the college and hire the two candidates in violation of a CSU moratorium on changes to ethnic studies programming.
They also alleged civil rights violations for the inequitable funding of Ethnic Studies compared to other departments and hiring of minorities across the university.
Before the compromise, university officials denied the retaliation allegations and stated in response that Ethnic Studies is treated like other colleges.
Toni Molle, a CSU spokesperson, said Lafayette will produce a report with findings and recommendations.
“Those findings and recommendations will be reviewed by the chancellor and systemwide human resources to determine if any changes need to be made,” Molle wrote in an email to the San Francisco Examiner.
Lafayette is expected to spend “the next few weeks determining the
best approach” to the review, as well as detailing a timeline for it, White said.