Old Main Clock Tower

The Old Main Clock Tower sits on top of Old Main in University Park, Pa on Feb. 17, 2022.

Black Penn State political science professor Errol Henderson has been given the opportunity to file an amended complaint to his federal civil rights lawsuit filed against the university in May 2021, which alleged discrimination and a hostile work environment, according to court documents.

Henderson filed complaints against the university due to alleged "racially hostile work environment" for 10 years. Specifically, Henderson reported "unprofessional and biased behavior of his white colleagues" to the political science department head, Lee Ann Banaszak, since 2014, the lawsuit said.

Banaszak allegedly accused Henderson for "harassment" because Henderson continually raised complaints to her. Henderson attempted to bring the concerns to Penn State President Eric Barron, but according to the lawsuit, no action was taken from the university.

According to case documents, Henderson asked Banaszak to be considered for a full professor position after the publication and success of his book titled "African Realism? International Relations Theory and Africa's Wars in the Postcolonial Era" in 2015. Henderson was denied this opportunity by Banaszak allegedly due to "purported deficiencies in Dr. Henderson's classroom skills and performance."

In 2017, Henderson formally complained to the Associate Vice President of Affirmative Action Suzanne Adair regarding Banaszak's "refusal to consider him" for full professor along with other alleged discriminatory actions in the political science department.

In the 2019 Daily Collegian op-ed "Being Black at Penn State," Henderson shared his experiences with systemic racism at the university and his "battles with toxic race discrimination" within the political science department, the lawsuit said.

"Within weeks of publication, Dr. Henderson learned that several of his white colleagues had raised complaints that he had created a racially hostile work environment for them, and that he was being investigated by Penn State for alleged racial harassment," the lawsuit said.

The university issued Henderson a formal letter of discipline, which charged him with "discrimination and harassment and related inappropriate conduct" while barring Henderson from teaching until June 20, 2021. Henderson was also required to take remedial courses in teaching.

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