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Bias complaints emerge from USF graduate school

Three blacks say race affects perks and promotions in the graduate school office.

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 11, 2001


University of South Florida officials are investigating new allegations of racial discrimination after a state senator contacted the school about complaints he had received.

University of South Florida officials are investigating new allegations of racial discrimination after a state senator contacted the school about complaints he had received.

Provost H. David Stamps and vice provost Tennyson Wright met Monday with employees of the graduate school office and at least one former employee of USF, university spokesman Michael Reich said.

"The sole purpose was for the provost and vice provost to find out what their complaints were so that we can look into them," said Reich, who declined to identify the witnesses involved.

All the complaints pertain to the graduate school office, he said.

Sen. Les Miller, D-Tampa, said one graduate studies employee and two graduate students, all African-American women, approached him last month. The students said they were not getting the same perks as non-African-Americans, Miller said. The employee, who is not a professor, was concerned she was getting passed over for promotions because of her race.

"It appeared to me that she was denied upward mobility because of the mere fact she was African-American," Miller said.

After hearing the allegations, Miller called USF president Judy Genshaft. She went to his office, Miller said, and said she would investigate the matter fully.

"She was very upset about it," Miller said of Genshaft. "I think she's very serious about handling problems like that at the university. She wants to nip this in the bud. Hopefully, this whole situation can be rectified."

This is not the first time USF has faced allegations of racism. Eight black basketball players allege that former women's basketball coach Jerry Ann Winters segregated her players on overnight trips and punished black players more harshly than whites. They are suing Winters and the university, accusing USF of trying to cover up the alleged discrimination.

Reich said the graduate office is the administrative office for USF's graduate programs, and handles admissions materials.

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