Former DSU professor files lawsuit against the school

DOVER — A former professor is suing Delaware State University for alleged discrimination and harassment during his tenure that ended with an arrest and discharge from the school in 2012.

Dr. Jahi Issa filed a 40-page federal second amended complaint on April 24. It recounts his version of time spent at DSU as an assistant professor of History and Africana Studies in the Department of History from his hiring in August 2008.

On Monday DSU spokesman Carlos Holmes said, “We don’t comment on ongoing litigation.”

In March 2012, Dr. Issa was charged with four alleged offenses following an on-campus protest. He was terminated that August, according to documents.

Two disorderly conduct charges and an offensive touching count were resolved in his favor, the lawsuit stated. A mistrial resulted regarding a resisting arrest count that was subsequently dismissed with prejudice.

Among defendants listed were Delaware State University, its former President Harry Williams, past Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Alton Thompson, Chief of Police Harry R. Downes Jr. and two DSU police officers.

Damages sought include back and front pay, compensatory and punitive awards, and all costs of the action, among other demands for judgment.

The lawsuit listed Dr. Issa as currently homeless but using the address of a friend in Wilmington.

According to Dr. Issa in an emailed statement, he has been unable to find full-time work since leaving DSU.

“(I have) done limited consulting work for a fraction of his prior salary at DSU,” he said. “And (I) was recently able to get a much less desirable job as an adjunct professor in the CUNY system in August 2017.

“(I am) an at will employee and paid by the class, with no guarantee of classes or pay. (I) make a fraction of what (I) would as a full time professor, with no job security and no benefits.”

The lawsuit alleged that Dr. Issa was confronted by the acting chair of the Department of History, Political Science and Philosophy (HPSP) in September 2008 and told his “teaching methodology was ‘too Black’ — Black/African centered — and that if Dr. Issa was not careful and more selective about what he taught students in his African American History class, Dr. Issa would be dismissed from his duties like the visiting professor who had previously held Dr. Issa’s position.”

Dr. Issa alleged he was unfairly passed over for promotion to associate professor and also claimed he was harassed while at DSU when:

• His office was entered without his consent.

• Items were removed from his office.

• A flyer depicting a lynching was put under his office door.

• He was told to “shut up” and other denigrating remarks were made.

• A person urinated in his office.

Dr. Issa claimed he was diagnosed by “a noted psychiatrist and neurologist” with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder on June 17, 2011,
“secondary to job-related stressors and experiences.”

The lawsuit also detailed Dr. Issa’s view of a March 1, 2012, demonstration that ended with his arrest outside the Martin Luther King Jr. Center.

The professor said students contacted him and “to discuss their intent to stage a peaceful protest” regarding “the growing trend in which DSU was abandoning its mission with being an HBCU (Historically Black College and University).”

Dr. Issa claimed he was “physically assaulted, injured, and arrested” by DSU police “[w]hile exercising his First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly by attending the gathering.”

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