He’s In The Middle Of A Complex Lawsuit With The Institution Of Higher Learning
A Black political science professor, who was fired by the City University of New York, is currently tied up in a multi-million dollar federal lawsuit over lost Black history research.
According to New York Daily News, Professor Joseph Wilson says decades of lectures, writings, correspondence, books and research, including some that can’t be replaced, was illegally seized by CUNY. The professor says years of research was boxed up and carted away by clueless CUNY security guards without warning in a series of warrant-less raids of his school offices. The drastic actions came after the celebrated professor was accused of enriching himself on the school’s dollar.
Over the past several years since the the raids happened, Wilson has been fighting to save his Brooklyn College teaching job. He’s also tried with limited success to track down his items. Some were found tossed into random boxes, others were strewn across school shelves and plastic bags, and other items have completely disappeared.
Wilson is seeking unspecified punitive and compensatory damages for his lost work in a lawsuit. He also is demanding CUNY dig up his property or pay him for what was lost.
“All I want is justice. What gives people the right, for whatever alleged violations they used to fire me, to trash my history and my intellectual property?” Wilson told the Daily News. “The university has to be held accountable and apologize profusely and profoundly. They made some dastardly errors.”
CUNY denies all allegations made against them by Wilson.
The school said a neutral arbitrator found Wilson was appropriately terminated due to “serious misconduct” that included taking an additional $100,000 in compensation he wasn’t entitled to over the course of three years. He also allegedly submitted false documents to college officials.
“We look forward to a full airing of all of the facts in this case, which clearly show that Mr. Wilson’s claims are without merit,” a spokesman said. “The lawsuit is built on false allegations.”
Despite the allegations made by CUNY, Wilson definitely has a strong rep in the academic world. The 67-year-old was a leading expert on the history of Black working class and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first Black union. He’s also enjoyed a long tenured career as a political science professor at Brooklyn College, and he founded the Brooklyn College Center for Diversity and MultiCultural Studies, dedicated to increasing diversity among students, teachers and classroom topics.
In 1997, he was also appointed director of the Graduate Center for Worker Education in lower Manhattan.
Things took a shift for the downside when the “raid” was carried out at the Worker Educations Center in January 2012.
“We were told not to move, that we couldn’t make any phone calls, or leave the office or speak to anyone,” said Wilson.
Several months later, the suit says another seizure was carried out on the Brooklyn College campus where Wilson had two offices. Everything was taken, including his letters with poet and fellow teacher Allen Ginsberg, his correspondence with music legend Ray Charles, a transcript and notes on a previously undiscovered speech by Martin Luther King Jr., and thousands more pages and items.
Even his research into a death threat made against Civil Rights and labor organizer A. Philip Randolph (who was mailed a severed human hand) was taken. In addition to all this, Wilson also can’t find the bulk of his 40-year academic research, which independent scholars value at $12 to $14 million.
Wilson filed his federal suit in 2017, but the complex case is still underway nearly two years later. For Wilson, the main goal is to recoup as much as his work as possible.
He reflected on the experience saying:
“I have to tell you, it was traumatic, shattering and world changing what happened, and I never believed that it could and I certainly didn’t think it would happen at CUNY. I amassed an incredible amount of documentary history on Black workers…a treasure trove on some of the great and the unknown civil rights leaders. How it is possible that all this is going to be erased?”