Friday, December 4, 2020

Former chief diversity officer files law suit against university, others

Former Plattsburgh State Chief Diversity Officer J.W. Wiley has filed a lawsuit against PSUC and several other individuals over the circumstances of his summer termination, stating that the firing was due to racial and gender bias.

In a lawsuit submitted to the U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York by Satter Law Firm PLLC of Syracuse Nov. 30, Wiley sued PSUC, PSUC’s President John Ettling, former PSUC Title IX intern and current graduate student Vrinda Kumar, PSUC Title IX Coordinator Butterfly Blaise and PSUC’s Student Association.

The complaint cited 14 causes of action against the defendants, ranging from race and gender discrimination to unlawful retaliation in violation of Wiley’s First Amendment rights.

Wiley’s complaint states he was fired from his position as PSUC’s CDO this past June following a Title IX investigation that the suit said was, “conducted in an environment tainted by anti-male sex bias generated by the SUNY Plattsburgh Gender and Women Studies Department.”

Wiley’s complaint detailed his perspective on events leading up to his dismissal, including multiple instances in which he complained to Ettling that he believed Kumar was conducting an investigation into past allegations against him at the request of Blaise in a manner not compliant with Title IX regulations.

In the suit’s historical background, Wiley alleged that past investigations by the Title IX Office, then under the leadership of Lynda Ames, had the goal of undermining “his reputation by labeling him, based on his race and gender, with the historically and statistically inaccurate, yet destructive, stereotype and behavior perpetrating [sic] the ‘Myth of the Black Rapist.’”

Later on, the suit claimed, “Caucasian faculty previously charged with sexual harassment and sexual misconduct were allowed to continue teaching, pending the outcome of investigation.”

The suit said Wiley was reassigned to work off-campus during the investigation, and was banned from returning to campus or communicating to students, faculty or staff.

Through the complaint, Wiley hopes to be reinstated to his position at PSUC, as well as “receive all lost wages and all other compensation denied or lost to plaintiff by reason of defendants’ unlawful actions in an amount to be proven at trial” and be awarded “compensatory damages for plaintiff’s personal and professional reputation, emotional pain and suffering and lost economic opportunities in an amount to be proven at trial.”

In an email statement from PSUC’s Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs Ken Knelly, he said on behalf of the school, “While we cannot comment on the details of a matter in litigation, these are baseless allegations and we stand by the actions we took that were necessary to protect our students.”

On behalf of the S.A., President Jessica Falace also could not comment for the same reason.

Email Ben Watson at

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