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Ex-Director Accuses Berkeley Social Justice Center of Bias
The National Law Journal
The former director of a social justice center at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law has sued her ex-boss, claiming that she was unjustly fired amid an undercurrent of racial tension at the center and the law school.
Wilda White, who is black, had served as the executive director of the law school’s Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice from 2008 until April, when she was told that her $123,000 contract would not be renewed because of her poor working relationship with her supervisor Mary Louis Frampton, who is white.
White, who was not tenured, sued Frampton on June 13 in California state court, claiming intentional infliction of emotional distress and deceit.
White’s complaint includes numerous allegations of deception by Frampton plus claims regarding racial conflict among the law school’s student body and within the center, founded to foster research into race, sex and poverty.
According to the complaint, “defendant Frampton did not find [White] sufficiently appreciative of Frampton’s self-perception as a ‘White Savior’ of ‘people of color,’ in general and ‘men of color’ in particular.”
Frampton did not respond to calls for comment. Law school spokeswoman Susan Gluss said the lawsuit concerned a confidential personnel matter that she could not discuss publicly.
Dean Christopher Edley Jr., however, called White a “disgruntled employee” who has misrepresented the climate on campus. “Any suggestion that Berkeley Law is not welcoming to minority students is preposterous at best, as students and alumni will readily confirm,” he said.
White alleged that Frampton provided false information in her 2011 performance review and forced her to work two summers without receiving the $84,000 White said she is owed, among other things.
Efforts to mediate the dispute failed, the complaint says. White has been on paid leave from the law school until her contract lapses at the end of June.
The bulk of White’s complaint centers on what she described as a pattern of deceitful behavior by Frampton, with whom she clashed repeatedly over staffing questions and how the center conducted field research at local public schools with large percentages of minority students.
White also said that Frampton falsely declared in her 2011 performance review that many faculty members found White unapproachable and brusque. She began speaking openly about her disagreements with Frampton, including during public remarks during a gala hosted by Berkeley Law’s Students of African Descent in April, openly discouraging prospective minority students from attending Berkeley, according to the complaint. She later conceded to an administrator that her remarks were a mistake and that she needed to take some time off, the complaint says.
White and Frampton convened several meetings with a mediator to discuss their deteriorating work relationship, and White was informed on April 29 that her contract would not be renewed. She is on paid leave from the law school until her contract lapses at the end of June.
Contact Karen Sloan at email@example.com.