Ex-Ohio University professor Yusuf Kalyango, who lost his tenure and was fired by the Board of Trustees in April in relation to investigations that found he sexually harassed students, filed a new lawsuit against the university weeks after dropping a separate suit.
The new suit, filed May 24 in the Ohio Court of Claims, contains many of the same arguments outlined in the since-dropped federal suit Kalyango filed against OU in 2020, which was dismissed in April through a deal brokered between his attorney, Gregory Beck, and the university, though the details surrounding the agreement aren’t clear.
Kalyango was found by the OU Office for Equity and Civil Rights Compliance, or the Title IX office to have sexually harassed two female students, resulting in his eventual termination.
Both suits include allegations that leadership and faculty within the Scripps College of Communication discriminated and retaliated against the former professor, partly on the basis of race. Also alleged is that the university and Scripps College leadership violated procedures many times while he was being detenured, creating an unfair process.
In the newly filed lawsuit are allegations that the Board of Trustees, in an effort to protect the university’s reputation and make a statement about sexual harassment, conspired to terminate Kalyango, a Black man, by denying to accept the recommendation of the Faculty Senate Hearing Committee, which recommended to the Board following a two-day hearing in December 2020 that the former professor shouldn’t lose tenure and be reinstated as a professor because he was denied due process.
“The Board of Trustees did not want to adopt the permanent findings of the Senate Hearing Committee which noted in its response to the Board’s demand for specific fact finding that there was evidence of systemic racism and professors of color were treated differently,” the suit alleged.
“To be sure, if the Board of Trustees would have done their proper duty and not conspired to protect the reputation of the university, the Board would have conceded that there were significant problems at the University with racism and other professors and employees in protected status; the best way to avoid those truthful issues was to sacrifice Dr. Kalyango and claim the Senate Hearing Committee’s conclusions were simply wrong.”
The Board of Trustees, as part of its decision to rebuff the faculty committee and fire Kalyango, took issue with the standard of evidence the committee used in reaching its conclusion and that an independent review of the evidence on the Board’s part revealed inconsistencies between the testimonies of Kalyango and the two women who accused him of misconduct. The faculty committee defended its conclusions in a report the Board of Trustees ordered it to submit.
During the hearing, former Scripps College faculty member Michele Ferrier, who also filed a since-dropped lawsuit claiming she was retaliated against by school leadership, alleged that separate instances of harassment and abuse that were more severe than the allegations levied against Kalyango went unpunished.
The university declined to comment on the suit, as it does with all pending legal matters, and Beck didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
In the lawsuit, Kalyango argued that the public nature of his ousting was cruel and that it placed he and his two children in danger, resulting in the former professor selling his Athens home to “find a different shelter.” It’s not clear where he moved to.
Kalyango requested that the court grant preliminary and permanent injunction to reinstate him as a full, tenured professor at OU and that he be compensated $1 million to recoup lost wages and other damages. He also asserted that the university should be enjoined from terminating him while the suit makes its way through the courts and that OU should be required to pay his salary and benefits and reinstate his administrative leave.