Investigation into USA professors who wore ‘racially insensitive’ costumes nears conclusion

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MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The University of South Alabama’s interim president John Smith sent a letter to students, faculty and staff giving a update on the investigation into three professors from the Mitchell College of Business who wore racially insensitive costumes during a Halloween party back in 2014.

The professors were placed on leave earlier this year following an exclusive News 5 report.

The letter from interim president Smith reads:

Dear USA Students, Faculty and Staff,

I pledged earlier this summer to keep the University community updated on the investigation into the 2014 Halloween costume contest that resulted in three Mitchell College of Business faculty members being placed on administrative leave, so I wanted to take a few moments to give you an update.

Outside counsel Suntrease Williams-Maynard has completed numerous interviews that will be part of her report that will be filed with Academic Affairs. The report is expected to look at the facts surrounding the participation of each faculty member separately. While the general facts surrounding the incident are the same, each faculty member in question played a different role.

Upon receipt of the investigator’s report, Academic Affairs will make the initial determination about whether the information gathered could support a finding of a violation of the EO/EA policy by each faculty member, based on the 2014 Faculty Handbook, which states complaints may be based upon “unlawful discrimination based upon sex (including pregnancy) or sexual orientation, or unlawful discrimination or harassment based on race, religion, color, national origin, age, disability, protected veteran status or genetic information.”

If the facts presented are not adequate grounds to support a policy violation against any one of the faculty members, there will be no further proceedings involving that individual. The matter will then proceed with any of the faculty members for whom the information in the report may support a finding of a policy violation.

While much of this process has already been outlined to the University community, I thought it would be beneficial to remind our University community about the next steps. It is important that everyone understands the procedures, how we intend to handle the matters and that each gets a fair review.

John Smith

Interim President

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