Diversity Director Settles Suit with Indiana University, Resigns - Higher Education


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Diversity Director Settles Suit with Indiana University, Resigns

by Black Issues

Diversity Director Settles Suit with Indiana University, Resigns

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Nearly two years after suing Indiana University over alleged racially motivated harassment, IU’s director of diversity programs has settled out of court with the university.
Under the terms of the settlement, Steve Birdine said he will leave IU Jan. 25 and receive two years’ salary, plus what he would have earned this year — an amount totaling about $120,000.
Birdine filed his suit against IU in April 1997, alleging “offensive and harassing verbal and physical abuse of a racial nature” by an immediate supervisor. Although no individuals were named as defendants in the case, the basis for the complaint cited in the lawsuit was an incident involving Birdine and Damon Sims, associate dean of students.
But during a May news conference, Birdine said the suit went beyond the February 1996 incident with Sims. He said he filed the lawsuit to force IU to acknowledge a “major problem” greater than just his complaint. That problem included “racism, sexism, ableism, discrimination, homophobia, and other “isms,” he said.
Birdine says he settled out of court because he wanted to get on with his life.
He also says he felt he didn’t get institutional support from Black faculty and staff. Some may have had an honest disagreement with his position, but others were fearful of retaliation, he says.
“Until they stand up, IU will continue to be a revolving door for us,” Birdine said.
IU officials would not comment on the lawsuit settlement or Birdine’s resignation. Kenneth Gros Louis, IU vice president and Bloomington chancellor, did say the diversity office functions would fall under the auspices of the new 20/20 organization. Under the 20/20 plan, IU is eliminating its advocacy dean structure and placing diversity activities under a new vice chancellor’s position.

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