Asian former faculty member at MSU’s Broad School files a federal discrimination suit

Plaintiffs are the university, Board of Trustees and chair of the Broad School’s Management Department


SUNDAY, June 23 — An Asian woman who alleges she was unfairly fired from her faculty position teaching management at Michigan State University has filed a discrimination lawsuit in federal court.

The suit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids by Rosmina A. Jaffer, of Haslett, contends that she was dismissed almost two years ago by the head of the Management Department in the Eli and Edythe Broad College of Business  “for her complaints of discrimination and unequal treatment due to her race and ethnicity.” The suit says she her workload and pay were reduced and she was denied access  to facilities, including the faculty coffee machine.

Two of the defendants are the university and the Board of Trustees, which are being sued under Title VII of the 1964 U.S. Civil Rights Act and Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. Jaffer is also suing  Management Department Chair Kent D. Miller for allegedly violating Elliott-Larsen. Sterling Attorneys at Law of Bloomfield Hills is representing Jaffer.

The suit says that Jaffer, who is 66 according to public records, was born in Uganda and is of Indian descent and ethnicity. MSU hired her in 2015 to teach in the Management Department’s master’s program. Her online resume said she earned three MSU degrees, starting as an undergraduate and culminating with a Ph.D. in 2008 through the lifelong education program. Her specialty was diversity in the workplace.  She was human resources and budget manager for MSU’s Agriculture Department from 2004 to 2007, her resume says. It also says she was a Davenport University administrator and faculty member for 10 years. She served as president of MSU’s Asian Pacific Faculty and Staff Association from 2005 to 2007, according to her resume.

MSU hired Jaffer in 2015 to teach full time in the department’s Management, Strategy and Leadership Program when Bob Wiseman chaired the department. Don Conlon succeeded Wiseman the same year, according to Conlon’s obituary last year.

Conlon, who was white, “was hostile towards the plaintiff,” the only person of color teaching in the master’s program at the time and one of few people of color in the department, the suit alleges. He also “exhibited favoritism towards the American-born, White faculty.” It says that Conlon reduced the number of credit hours she taught, which reduced her pay. Throughout her employment, the suit says, Jaffer was the only Asian faculty member in the master’s program.

In 2021, Miller succeeded Conlon and became Jaffer’s direct supervisor as well. Jaffer
“noticed that Miller continued to treat White American-born faculty better than Asian or foreign-born faculty," the suit says.

“Miller would give preferential treatment to non-Asian faculty members and recommend they receive better teaching assignments and pay,” the suit says, adding, “Miller was openly hostile to plaintiff and denied plaintiff the same benefits as her non-Asian colleagues.”

“For instance, Miller ostracized plaintiff and refused to provide her with an office key so that she could access the main office or use the faculty lounge.” The suit alleges she was the only faculty member denied such access. He also refused to allow Jaffer to use the faculty coffee machine or give her an office, even though all other faculty members had one, the suit says. It also says Miller was “regularly disrespectful … and dismissive of plaintiff during faculty meetings,” but not to American-born, white faculty members.

The suit says Miller appointed American-born, white faculty at higher credit-hour loads and hence more pay.

“When plaintiff complained to Miller that he was discriminating against her. Miller retaliated against plaintiff by reducing her pay, and then firing her,” the suit says. Her pay had already been reduced to 62% of full time when Miller reduced it to 50% for the 2023 school year, it says, which was accomplished by reducing her course load. She was let go in July 2022 and replaced by “additional faculty,” according to the suit.

Miller's action's contradicted what the suit called an assurance that "he would not reduce her appointment status because he said, 'great faculty who can teach online courses are hard to find.'"

After reducing her pay the first time, Miller told Jaffer that she "was not a good fit for the department, even though plaintiff had excellent performance," the suit says.

In September 2022, Jaffer filed a discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission, which granted her right to sue in March this year, the suit says. Title VII of the 1964  Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex and national origin.

An MU spokesperson said the university does not comment on pending litigation.  An effort to reach Miller for comment was unsuccessful.


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