Progressive NYC College Sued after Firing Black Lesbian

An African American woman is suing the New School for failing to provide her with tenure and dismissing her saying it discriminated against her based on her race, color and sexual orientation.

Dr. Robin J. Hayes describes herself as a “dark-skinned African American lesbian born in East Flatbush, New York to a family of modest means,” in the complaint. Despite its reputation as a progressive institution of higher learning, Hayes claims she was sought out by the New School to join its faculty to address its lack of diversity. She also says they ended up firing her for those same qualities they seemed to seek out.

For whatever reason, Hayes is still listed as a member of the school’s Public and Urban Policy faculty.

Hayes joined the faculty in June 2010 and, based on the schools’ faculty handbook and her employment contract, was to be reviewed for tenure within six years. Hayes claims, however, that the school did not provide the support required for her to achieve that goal.

In addition, Hayes claims that “[d]espite her substantial scholarly, teaching, and service contributions, The New School subjected [her] to discriminatory disparate treatment on the basis of her race, color, gender, and sexual orientation.”

Hayes claims that the school hired a white, heterosexual assistant professor around the same time she was hired for the same position. But while that faculty member was provided with “appropriate, consistent and meaningful mentorship, post-hire support for her teaching and scholarship, functional equipment, a ‘partner hire,’ and review for and promotion to tenure, Hayes was denied “each of these terms of employment and promotion.”

When Hayes sought to teach a “Hip Hop, Media-Making and Democracy” lab, she claims to have learned that some school administrators saw it as “attracting Black students with ‘thuggish’ characteristics, given the University’s sophomoric understanding of Hip Hop’s prominence in universities around the world.”

When Hayes asked for early tenure review, the administration denied her request, while granting the same to “two similarly situated full-time, tenure-track faculty members who were not members of protected classes due to their gender or skin color,” according to the complaint.

When Hayes made complaints about her treatment to administrators, she claims she received no response.

Hayes claims that she was terminated in March 2017 and the reason given was that she had informed students that a course might be cancelled due to low enrollment. Hayes claims this was a pretext as it was not actually against the school’s policy. 

“The true reason The New School fired Dr. Hayes was in retaliation for her protected activity in insisting on a working environment free of facial gender, color, and sexual orientation, pay inequity and animus,” the complaint states.

Hayes is represented by Benjamin Dictor of New York City who filed the complain in the Southern District of New York.