Earlier this summer, a gay White professor at Alabama State University filed a lawsuit in federal court against Alabama State, an HBCU, alleging that he and his partner had been the targets of discriminatory practices at the school.
Dr. John L. Garland charged that he and his spouse, Dr. Steven B. Chesbro, who is dean of the College of Health Sciences at ASU, were retaliated against after they spoke out about a pattern of discrimination at the public HBCU.
While ASU declined to comment on the allegations, news of the lawsuit made national headlines, raising an urgent and pressing question: How do historically Black colleges and universities fare overall when it comes to ensuring that members of the LGBTQA community — students, staff and faculty — are afforded the same rights as others?
“Not so good,” says Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks, executive director and CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition, a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black LGBTQA individuals. “I don’t think we’re being too hard on HBCUs. They are just far too behind when it comes to this issue.”
Though HBCUs have a history of being culturally and religiously conservative, guidelines established by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) make it illegal for colleges and universities — particularly public ones — to discriminate against LGBTQA employees. <Read more.>