Georgia Southern professor received demotion for racial harassment allegations years prior to using N-word in class

Karen McCurdy is currently a political science and international studies assistant professor at Georgia Southern University. McCurdy was accused of using the N-word in class multiple times in October and was demoted in 2012 for allegations of racial harassment. 

Tori Collins

Georgia Southern University Professor Karen McCurdy received a demotion in 2013 as a result of a complaint filed accusing McCurdy of racial harassment. 

McCurdy was recently accused of using the N-word in class in October, however, on April 26, 2012, Latoya Jenkins, the then assistant director of the political science department, filed a complaint with GS’s Diversity Services Office accusing McCurdy, the then supervisor of the political science department, of racial harassment, according to records obtained through an open records request.

In the complaint filed, Jenkins said McCurdy created a hostile environment for the African-American student workers in the office.

“She makes comments like ‘When you think of prisons, you think of blacks,’” Jenkins said in the complaint.

Jenkins also said in the complaint that McCurdy was being verbally abusive and discriminatory toward staff members.

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Jenkins said that McCurdy was using her power as supervisor to control the staff and threaten their jobs.

Jenkins also said that McCurdy used profanity against staff members, who at the time were all black, according to the complaint.

“[McCurdy] stated to one student that she only sees him or hears from him when he wants his f**king check,” Jenkins said in the complaint.

According to a report by Gary Gawel, the then director of Diversity Services, one person said that she heard McCurdy make a statement that she [McCurdy] hires poor blacks because she can control them. 

Another person said, according to Gawel’s report, that McCurdy said, “Blacks make up the largest percentage of the prison population.” 

According to documents received from the records request, McCurdy denied all accusations.

Jenkins’ complaint can be viewed below. 

The investigation

Emails obtained from the records request show the university conducted a fact-finding investigation of the accusations made against McCurdy.

Following the investigation, Gawel found that it was likely that McCurdy did violate the university’s policies prohibiting racial harassment.

“On the basis of the fact-finding investigation, it is more likely than not (preponderance of the evidence standard) that Dr. McCurdy engaged in behavior that violated the University policy prohibiting racial harassment,” Gawel wrote in a statement to the then Provost of Academic Affairs William Moore. 

Moore said in an email sent to then GS President Brooks Keel that McCurdy did violate the policy against racial harassment.

“We have a finding that from the Diversity Services Office that a tenured faculty member violated university policy on racial harassment,” Moore said. “If this were the case with an untenured faculty member or staff person, we would move to terminate.”

The full report from Gawel can be viewed below. 

Following review 

Following a review from the Faculty Review Committee, the committee believed that McCurdy did make offensive statements, however, the university did not find that the statements were racist, according to the records.

“It is our opinion that although Dr. McCurdy’s statements to the student workers were offensive, we do not believe that the comments were directly and intentionally racially motivated,” the committee said in an email.

The committee made two recommendations for McCurdy, according to the records: 

1. McCurdy be consoled or sanctioned for her inappropriate communication with student workers as deemed appropriate by her superiors. 

2. McCurdy participates in some type of program to improve her interpersonal communication skills within her work place.

The complete report of the Faculty Review Committee can be viewed below. 

Demotion

According to the records, on Feb. 13, 2013, McCurdy received an email from Keel stating that she had been demoted from a supervisor of the political science department to a political science and international studies assistant professor, which is the position McCurdy currently holds at GS.

McCurdy also received a deduction in her salary, which was equivalent to $58,000 for a 10-month assistant professor position.

The following is a copy of Keel’s email to McCurdy acquired by an open records request. 

Recent use of the N-word in class

A video of what appears to be McCurdy using the N-word during a class lecture on Oct. 22 recently went viral on Twitter. The video was posted by Georgia Southern student Dashia Nugent.

“…His intellectual abilities, says to an older white man, ‘You just think I’m a ni**er,'” the voice in the video said. “That was earth-shattering, right? In a way that that statement doesn’t have the same sense for this age group, because it’s a word, just as another word, that we used all the time, that was used all the time, that I actually didn’t hear until I got to college.”

Nugent said in a previous article that McCurdy also used the N-word in class on Oct. 19. Nugent said Department Chair Barry Balleck had met with McCurdy, who was asked to attend sensitivity training at the Armstrong campus and was under supervision.

McCurdy was reached by emaile but did not comment on the past complaint filed against her.

Interim President Shelley Nickel was asked about McCurdy’s past allegations but did not wish to comment, however, Nickel said there are current ongoing investigations on the allegations against McCurdy and Rebecca Kennerly, associate professor of communication studies, who was accused of using the N-word toward a student in fall 2017.

Matthew Enfinger contributed to this article. 

Tori Collins, The George-Anne Daily Reporter, [email protected]