Ex-Rutgers professor sues university

Former professor alleges race discrimination was cause of firing

NEW JERSEY — A fired Rutgers University journalism professor is suing his former school for discrimination he alleges occurred over several articles he wrote for the student newspaper.

Gregg Morris, who is African-American, filed suit in federal court and is pursuing his case in arbitration and with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.

Morris had taught journalism at the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers for seven years. According to Morris, two years ago his contract was not renewed because of several satirical columns he wrote for The Daily Targum. The pieces, featuring the mythical character T.B. Knight, mocked an air of insensitivity towards blacks and women which Morris felt had permeated the school’s journalism department.

After several columns ran, Morris, a popular professor among students, was unofficially notified that his contract would not be renewed the next year.

The following year, Morris, a member of the American Association of University Professors, filed for arbitration under his union contract. The case is ongoing. Morris expects favorable results, but says that that could take another year or so. Regardless of the outcome, because he was not tenured at Rutgers, the arbitrator’s decision is non-binding.

“I just want people to know what happened to me and to know what happens to other minorities,” Morris said. “The problem is [the discrimination] is usually kept under wraps.”

Morris also filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. In February 1996, the agency rejected his claim, a decision Morris is appealing.

Despite this initial setback, Morris has continued his fight, filing suit in federal court. He believes he has a good chance of winning because “[Rutgers] has a lot of contradictory information.” A federal Magistrate was set to hear the case in December.

In response to Morris’ complaints, Rutgers first said his contract was not renewed because he had no master’s degree. Morris pointed out that he earned one from Cornell University. Since then, Rutgers has said it is not obliged to explain employment decisions.

The journalism department at Rutgers did not return phone calls to the Report.

Morris wrote for various publications, including the New York Post, before deciding to teach. He is also an author.

Currently, Morris is in a tenure-track position as an Assistant Professor of Journalism at Hunter College in New York.

reports, Winter 1996-97