NEWARK, N.J. — A nonprofit organization claims in a lawsuit that a New Jersey college has illegally withheld documents concerning the firing of an instructor over racially charged comments she made in a television interview.
Essex County College fired adjunct professor Lisa Durden in June after she made comments on Fox News defending a Black Lives Matter event that only invited black people. Durden is black.
When show host Tucker Carlson asked her thoughts, Durden interrupted him, saying: “Boo hoo hoo. You white people are angry because you couldn’t use your white privilege card” to attend the event.
Durden was suspended two days later and later fired. Essex County College president Anthony Munroe said at the time the school had been “inundated” with messages from students and parents expressing concern about the comments.
“The character of this institution mandates that we embrace diversity, inclusion, and unity. Racism cannot be fought with more racism,” Munroe wrote at the time.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education alleged the college violated state law by ignoring multiple records requests.
Munroe and an attorney for the school didn’t respond to email requests for comment Thursday
The suit seeks to force the college to produce the documents including emails sent by administrators in the days leading up to Durden’s suspension and firing, and records reflecting the feedback Munroe referenced.
“Essex’s termination of Durden over her commentary on issue of public importance raises concerns regarding the college’s commitment to academic freedom and obligations under the First Amendment,” the group wrote in the lawsuit.