Former Associate Dean Sues Mizzou

Suit claims objections to Affirmative Action policies precipitated firing

University of Missouri
University of Missouri / Wikimedia Commons
January 13, 2018

The former associate dean for student programs of the University of Missouri School of Medicine has sued the school, claiming she was removed from her position because of her race, age, and opposition to manipulating admissions to favor racial minorities.

Rachel Brown, a white 60-year-old psychiatrist, filed a suit on Dec. 17 against the school and the Mizzou Board of Curators for being replaced by a younger, African-American faculty member, after the university came under intense scrutiny for the diversity of its staff and student body.

Brown, who had held her associate dean position since Jan. 2006, claimed she disagreed with medical school dean Patrice Delafontaine and Warren Lockette, the senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion, over their vision of implementing potentially illegal "race preferences" in admissions and hiring.

Brown "expressed her view that the single-minded pursuit of racial and ethnic minority applicants was unfair to other applicants and created legal risks for the school of medicine," according to the suit. She alleged that after she made her position known, she was left out of faculty meetings in a manner that was "purposeful, deliberate and designed to exclude [her] input regarding diversity at the Medical School."

She clashed repeatedly with Lockette, who allegedly pushed for removing the 15 percent cap on the number of out-of-state students admitted in order to have the school's demography reflect that of the country's, rather than that of a "homogenous" state. He is quoted as referring to Missouri resident students as "bumpkins, hicks and illiterates who lived in Hootersville," who were "too parochial" and "discriminatory."

"[Lockette] viewed any opposition to his ideas about diversity as 'obstruction,'" according to the suit, referencing a tense exchange in the presence of other faculty during which he yelled at Brown that she was "obstructing change."

Brown believes the school violated the Missouri Human Rights Act's ban on employers discriminating based on age or race in its October 2016 installation of Laine M. Young-Walker, a younger Black woman, as associate dean.

Young-Walker was under-qualified for the role, according to the suit, while Brown received multiple professional and service awards during her time as associate dean, and was allegedly told by Delafontaine that the decision to remove her from the administrative position had "nothing to do with her performance."

Brown is seeking to be either returned to her former position, or receive salary and benefits until her retirement in lieu of reinstatement. She also seeks legal fees, back salary, and punitive damages for emotional distress wrought by shock, humiliation, and outrage.

Mizzou's racial tensions erupted in extreme 2015 student protests, and were followed the next year by an accreditation review that found "deficiencies" in the school's diversity makeup. Those events led to an internal diversity reckoning that Brown warned has not been properly reviewed for compliance with the civil rights of all students.

Mizzou has repeatedly said it would not comment on ongoing litigation