Activist reasserts recent lawsuit’s allegations of Hispanic favoritism that displaced Blacks
Quanell X recently staged a news conference on the steps of the Houston Community College System’s downtown administration building recently to add street drama to the explosive allegations of $100 million lawsuit against HCC and to make a new demand.
The activist specifically called for the resignation of Dr. Cesar Maldonado, HCC’s chancellor.
“This man’s tenure here has been one of taking a knife to African American progress,” Quanell said during the Sept. 11 news conference. “What we want is a chancellor who will work directly with the African American community, the Hispanic community, the White community, the Asian community, the Arab community. Houston is a very diverse city and not one race should receive preferential treatment over another race.”
A lawsuit filed three months ago accuses Maldonado of instituting a system that resulted in the demotion and termination of a disproportionate number of Black top-level employees. The case alleges that there was a deliberate practice of displacing African American professionals, specifically Black women, through “discrimination, retaliation, and disparate treatment” to make room for less-qualified Hispanic and White hires.
Plaintiff Zelia Brown, a former manager of grants performance and compliance at HCC, was hired in February 2016 to manage the college’s state and federal grants. She alleges discrimination because she is African American and female, as well as retaliation for reporting the theft of grant funds.
“Plaintiff is the victim of a well-developed, systematic, entrenched and wildly successful campaign of race and sex discrimination against top level Black employees at HCC. This dreadful ‘campaign’ has resulted in the dismissal, demotion and/or termination of Blacks at alarming and disproportionate rates,” the lawsuit states.
The case names four defendants: Houston Community College; HCC Chancellor Dr. Cesar Maldonado; HCC District III Trustee Dr. Adriana Tamez; and Janet May, HCC’s chief human resources officer.
Notably filed on Juneteenth (June 19), the petition comes as racial inequity and bias are under examination nationwide and across the globe.
One of the lawsuit’s exhibits is an April 2014 email chain involving Maldonado, shortly after he was named the sole finalist for the chancellorship, from then-HCC Director Dr. Ricardo Solis who writes that “Now WE will finally get preferential treatment” – presumably referring to Hispanic employees.
Quanell held up a copy of the Solis email to punctuate his call for Maldonado to step down. He also said an independent investigation of HCC is in order so that current employees can feel confident that coming forward won’t result in retaliation.
“We want everyone in this city, regardless of race, to be treated fairly,” he said.
Community activist Cynthia Pharms also spoke.
“Our people have been discriminated against, bullied and pitted against the Hispanics,” she said, noting the importance of resolving this issue now as the economic impact of COVID-19 is likely to drive some students who might have started at four-year universities to begin at community colleges including HCC. “Chancellor Maldonado needs to resign. He must go.”
Founded in 1971, HCC celebrates 50 years in 2021. Its existence and development tracks with the city’s modern arc of racial and economic advancement. Today, HCC has a deeply diverse enrollment of nearly 70,000 students in three dozen certificate and degree programs.
HCC System spokesman Remmele Young declined to comment on pending litigation, but issued the following statement in response to the news conference:
“We can only share that the allegations in the lawsuit are false and that the College already filed its briefing with the court, including a motion to dismiss. These filings are readily available to the public.
As to the press conference, we respectfully observe the freedom of assembly, while remaining confident that the truth presented in our legal filings will determine the outcome of the lawsuit.
Until then, the focus of Houston Community College is serving our students and living up to our important mission of accessible, affordable, high quality education for all. As the most diverse community college in the country, we are unwavering in our commitment to provide a safe, equitable and inclusive learning and work environment. Our priority will always remain our students and those who teach and serve them.”