Thursday, April 29, 2021
Memphis Flyer, Race Becomes Crisis Point at U of M Law School:
A major potential revolt is brewing in the University of Memphis Law School, based on what Black students and a senior African-American faculty member see as continuing racial injustice on the part of the institution.
The disaffected faculty member is Alena Allen, the wife of Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, and she has announced an intention to resign to underscore her dissatisfaction with a system in which she says “[f]aculty-favored Black candidates have been denied opportunities to lead.”
Allen’s pending resignation has prompted the University chapter of the National Black Law Students Association to charge the university with “racial bias” and to put forth a series of demands of the administration. This document drew a further reproach in the form of an anonymous email from a “concerned faculty member” who calls upon the rest of the faculty to support the student demands so as to avoid “a catastrophic crisis at the law school.
In her letter of resignation — written, she said, “in the wake of George Floyd’s murder” — Allen, an associate professor and director of faculty research, reviews several instances in which she says credentialed Black applicants were bypassed for promotion and, in one case, for the position of dean, in favor of less well-qualified white applicants.
“The law school has never had a woman of color attain the rank of full professor,” Allen writes, in a statement that evidently incorporates her own experience. And she says, “During the past two dean searches, I have sat relatively quietly as the Provost declined to hire the Black decanal candidates despite being ranked higher by the faculty. In my view, a satisfactory answer for why a university that purports to be committed to diversity would do this has not been offered despite me calling the question.”