Suit accuses University of racial discrimination

September 28, 2016


Suit accuses University of racial discrimination

A civil rights complaint has been made against SF State and specific faculty members alleging racial discrimination, conflicts of interest and violations of academic policies in the school’s hiring practices.

According to the complaint for damages and injunctive relief, filed in January in San Francisco Superior Court:   

“Plaintiff alleges that he was repeatedly denied advancement to full-time employment for a Tenure Track position at San Francisco State University’s Creative Writing Department, for which he was the most qualified, due to his race,” according to court documents.

The plaintiff is Truong Tran, a lecturer for the department of creative writing. The court filing details his accounts of hiring bias over the span of his employment, beginning in 2002. Tran is still an active SF State employee and continues to lecture classes.

Tran believes the continued hiring of white candidates by all-white hiring committees is a violation of academic senate policy #F02-158, hiring policy revision for tenure track faculty, according to court documents.

“…the protocols stipulated in the Academic Senate were not followed in the formation of the hiring committee,” according to court documents.

Academic Senate policy states that hiring committees are to “be elected by secret ballot of probationary and tenured faculty” and that additional members may be elected to promote diversity by hiring of women, people of color and people with disabilities.

The original complaint named SF State, Maxine Chernoff and Paul Hoover as defendants. However, California State University Office of General Counsel submitted the official answer to Tran’s complaint against the school as a public entity and denied all allegations.

Chernoff and Hoover are specifically identified in the court filing for alleged conflicts of interest.

“In the 2006 hiring process, there was another conflict of interest because one of the then-candidates (Paul Hoover) being considered for the position was also the then-husband of the department chair (still Maxine Chernoff),” according to court documents.

The most recent court documents indicate that Tran and his attorney, William Simpich, had not complied with an order to show cause and have been summoned to appear on Nov. 1.

Simpich confirmed that the case is headed to mediation that he hopes will take place within the next 60 days.

“My duty right now is to take the mediation process seriously,” Simpich said. “But once that’s over, if doesn’t go successfully, we’ll go forward.”

“The case is in the early investigatory stage and the University continues to gather information concerning the complaint,” said University spokesperson Jonathan Morales. “We believe that when the evidence is developed it will show that SF State acted appropriately and Mr. Tran’s claims lack merit.”

Tran said he is committed to resolve the situation as well and is approaching mediation with hopes of doing so.

“This is my alma mater and community,” Tran said. “I still hold it in the highest regard.”

In addition to Tran’s lawsuit, the CSU system has enlisted the assistance of independent San Francisco attorney Gary Lafayette to conduct a third-party review of racial bias charges made against the University in April. SF State’s College of Ethnic Studies lodged the complaints following last year’s budget disputes. They also claim  the University retaliated against Black students that participated in related protests.

Toni Molle, a CSU spokesperson, told the SF Examiner that Lafayette’s findings and recommendations will be reviewed by the chancellor and system-wide human resources to determine if any changes need to be made.” The timeline for Lafayette’s investigation was unknown at the time this article was published.

Although there is contextual similarity between the two accusations, Morales has confirmed that they are unrelated.


  1. Willie Brown

    Does he speak English? That's a fair question for someone who teaches.

    • Dustin

      He's an English teacher you racist knob.

    • c.coleman

      OH, great point, "Willie Brown"! Really valuable contribution, thank you for your profundity.

    • T. Vukievic

      Yes he clearly speaks English if he has taught Creative Writing for 14 years.. As the article clearly states: The plaintiff is Truong Tran, a lecturer for the department of creative writing. The court filing details his accounts of hiring bias over the span of his employment, beginning in 2002. Tran is still an active SF State employee and continues to lecture classes. “This is my alma mater and community,” Tran said. “I still hold it in the highest regard.”

    • gumbo stew

      @WILLIE BROWN: You are a bumbling idiot who should not be teaching nor posting such a moronic comment--Do you teach well? No.

    • peopleshouldread

      "The plaintiff is Truong Tran, a lecturer for the department of creative writing." Did you bother reading the article? You think a university hires someone for creative WRITING who doesn't speak English?

    • Rachel

      Why would you ask if he speaks English? Why would you assume he doesn't?

    • Vanessa

      Yes. He is perfectly fluent.

    • Carny Asada

      How about you? Do you know enough English to be able to do a Google search before asking a question that makes you sound dumb and racist?

    • François Luong

      @Willie Brown Wow, do you realize how racist that comment was? For all that matters, Truong Tran most likely has a better grasp of English than you do, among other languages

    • François Luong

      Wow, could you be more racist or ignorant, @Willie Brown? For the record, Truong Tran is a well-respected poet whose work has been translated into multiple languages.

    • Dustin

      He's a Creative Writing teacher, which is in the English Department. Did you read the article or just read his name and assume he doesn't speak English?

    • MMM

      Yes. He's a native English speaker. He's a friend of a friend.

    • Ichiro Gambatte

      He's been employed as a lecturer in the creative writing department since 2002, so I am not so sure....

    • Frank

      you obviously either didn't read the article carefully or have an implicit bias. He's a creative writing professor. If you were familiar with creative writing classes in the United States, you would know without a doubt that they are taught by English-fluent instructors. Your question evokes racist tropes of Asian Americans as perpetual foreigners. You are part of the problem.

  2. Katherine D

    You do understand how racist this comment is, right? Truong Tran changed my life as a poet and he deserves tenure at the very least.

  3. Kay

    Do you know how to google? If you did, you would know that he's written five books in English. If you have any friends, maybe one of them could teach you to use google.

  4. Meg Withers

    Good grief!! Did you not read this article in which Tran is quoted: “This is my alma mater and community,” Tran said. “I still hold it in the highest regard.” Such a lack of critical thinking replaced by a thinly-disguised racist remark based on his name? This is precisely his complaint. Good job!

  5. Esther

    @Willie Brown, Truong Tran teaches in the Masters of Fine Arts Program in the Creative Writing/English department. He is a Professor. He's written several books in English. His statement quoted in the article is in English. What planet are you from?

  6. Edie Brick

    Truong is one of the best and most caring teachers I've ever had, and he is also a talented writer and artist. He deserves tenure for sure!

  7. Jess

    Uh, are you joking? He's an incredible poet who has taught poetry at SFSU for years. Did you feel threatened because you don't know how to pronounce his name?Your racism is showing.

  8. Barbara Eaton

    Flawlessly, he speaks and writes English flawlessly. Truong Tran is a native English speaker. He is Vietnamese-American.

  9. Matt

    Read one of his five books to find out. That's actually a stupid and racist question. There's this tool you can use called google.

  10. AK

    He's written five books in English. Do you know how to use Google? Do you have any friends who could help you learn how to use it? Maybe not?

  11. Anais Sunray

    Not sure what this is about, but I know Chernoff and Hoover, well. I have been their student and they are very careful when choosing who they believe can inspire their department and students. They take their students opinions of teachers into deep consideration. Hoover has even translated several series of poetry with people from all over the world. I have heard of the professor Tran from other students who told me NOT to take his class. . . . So. . . Let's be fair. Just because you aren't a good teacher does not mean you can file a racial discrimination suit.

    • Vanessa

      @anaissunray I think you should only speak from personal experience and not resort to rumors.

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