Allegations of racial discrimination

Published by , Author: Eric Daives, Date: January 19, 2019
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Slippery Rock University’s vice president of finance filed a federal lawsuit against asserting that he was discriminated against because of his race, Iranian origin and Muslim faith, during SRU and Clarion Universities’ presidential searches in 2017. SRU, The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and SRU Council of Trustees member Robert Taylor were all listed as defendants.

Finance VP Amir Mohammadi was one of three finalists in contention to succeed Cheryl Norton as president of Slippery Rock University in the fall of 2017. The suit claims that despite being “a successful top manager at Slippery Rock in terms of finance, construction, development, procurement, and sustainability,” and receiving a letter of recommendation supporting his bid for the position from Norton, Mohammadi was not granted the position due to racial and religious bias.

As previously reported by The Rocket, Mohammadi’s candidacy was not forwarded to the PASSHE Board of Governors at a Council of Trustees meeting where member Robert Taylor voiced concerns that the search committee was corrupted by conflict of interest, as two members of the committee directly reported to Mohammadi even though both members in question were cleared to be members of the committee by PASSHE. These concerns were only brought to light hours before the final vote.

In the suit, Mohammadi alleges that this objection was a result of prejudice, noting that past presidents, who were white American males, were promoted from within the institution without such allegations.

The suit also claims that Taylor intentionally tried to sabotage Mohammadi’s candidacy in other ways, such as leaving the premises before Mohammadi’s interview, bullying, being rude to other members of the search committee, warning others not to pick Mohammadi without providing reason, mocking Mohammadi and leaking information from the search to the local press, among others.

In a letter sent to the PASSHE Chancellor’s office and published in The Rocket, many members of the search committee expressed their displeasure with Taylor and his conduct during the search.

Mohammadi later applied for the presidency at Clarion University and became a finalist. However, in the suit, Mohammadi claims that a story written in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, based on the information leaked by Taylor, caused the search committee at Clarion to choose a different candidate.

The full case filing can be read here.