University settles discrimination lawsuit with professor

The settlement comes as legal groups pursue high-profile cases alleging that universities are discriminating against Asian students and faculty.

Minnesota State University, Mankato/Facebook

(Campus Reform) — Minnesota State University Mankato (MSUM) recently settled a lawsuit with Ka-Wah Wong, a professor passed over by the Department of Physics and Astronomy for a tenure-track position.

Wong “reached a $117,500 settlement” with the university and “now works as a physics professor at State University of New York,” according to the Star Tribune. He alleged that the hiring committee discriminated against him because of his Cantonese accent, instead pursuing the other two finalists who the lawsuit said were less qualified.

“I was shocked that such unfair treatment would happen at Minnesota State, Mankato … which is supposed to promote equity and inclusiveness,” Wong said in a statement to the Star Tribune.

During the application process, Wong and the other finalists, who are white, gave guest lectures. Despite receiving positive reviews from students, Wong’s attorneys said that he received lower ratings from faculty in the category “clarity of speech,” the Echo Press reported.

Wong’s attorneys also argued that he had “an excellent teaching record” and was “well-regarded for his research efforts, which included more than 10 projects funded by NASA.” The Echo Press said that the lawsuit accused the university of violating the Minnesota Human Rights Act by discriminating against Wong on the basis of his race and national origin.

In a statement to Campus Reform, MSUM said that its “established hiring processes and procedures support the University’s commitment to affirmative action and comply with state and federal laws to ensure all applicants fair and consistent treatment in [its] recruitment and selection processes.”

“The University is fully committed to equal opportunity and non-discrimination in employment and education, and we are proud of our track record in this area,” the statement continued. “We believe the diversity of our faculty, staff, and students is a tremendous asset and is an important contributor to the student experience.”

The exact terms of the settlement, according to the Echo Press, are unknown.

MSUM’s settlement comes at a time when several high-profile cases allege Civil Rights violations committed by universities for discriminating against Asian faculty and students.

A recent lawsuit against six Texas medical schools accuses them of discriminating against Asian and white men in admissions. America First Legal (AFL) will represent the plaintiff, according to Reuters.

AFL is also behind a lawsuit claiming that a Texas A&M University faculty fellowship program created for underrepresented groups, as the Texas Tribune reported, “violates Title VI and Title IX of the federal Civil Rights Act as well as the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.”

“In all events, Texas A&M’s fixed set-asides for non-Asian racial minorities is a constitutionally forbidden quota that fails even if one were to assume that Grutter and Fisher govern a public university’s faculty-hiring decisions,” the lawsuit reads.

Grutter and Fisher are Supreme Court cases related to affirmative action in university admissions.

As Campus Reform reported, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for two affirmative action cases in October. The cases brought against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina (UNC) allege discrimination against Asian applicants.

The legal group behind both lawsuits, Students for Fair Admissions, said in a blog post that Harvard “giv[es] negative weight to Asian applicant performance and ha[s] admissions officers give dramatically lower interview ratings to Asian-American applicants than Harvard’s own alumni give the same students in interviews.”

“Americans of Chinese, Korean, Pakistani, Vietnamese, and other Asian descent are all welcome at Harvard,” the blog post continued, “but they are viewed as having a regrettable tendency toward over-achievement and of threatening to crowd out other students if their numbers are not consciously curtailed.”



Shelby Kearns