A Murray State University political science professor is reportedly on suspension after a black student’s claim that the professor allegedly made discriminating comments to her after a class last fall.
Arlene Johnson, a freshman from Sikeston, Mo., told the Ledger & Times in a telephone interview that one day in August, she came to class early to find that a film was already in progress. She said that after class, she and another student asked professor Mark Wattier why the film had started before the official start time of the class, and she said he told them that when screening films, he typically started them 10-15 minutes before class.
“We said, ‘Well, we didn’t know that. It wasn’t on the syllabus, so we were unaware,’” Johnson said. “And then he said, ‘Well, it’s OK, I expect it of you guys anyway.’ We asked him, ‘What did that mean?’ And he said the slaves never showed up on time, so their owners often lashed them for it. He just didn’t have the right.”
Johnson said that after Wattier made the comment, the other student stormed away using profanity, and she stayed and asked Wattier if that was what he thought of them.
Johnson said that she went to the Office of Equal Opportunity the same day to file a complaint. She said that the EOO later informed her of Wattier’s suspension.
Johnson said she had been told that a disciplinary hearing would take place in the future, but she did not, yet, know when that would be.
She said she had so far been satisfied with the university’s response.
Catherine Sivills, MSU’s assistant vice president for communications, e-mailed the following statement: “After the grievance process concluded, the final decision resulted in the suspension of Mark Wattier effective January 4 - May 15, 2011. He was suspended without pay and benefits. Mark Wattier has appealed the decision. The appeal is filed with the Office of Equal Opportunity. The appeal will be heard by a hearing body composed of three (3) members of the University community appointed by the President.”
Wattier could not be reached Wednesday morning and Sabrina Dial, director of the OEO, could also not be reached.