Suit accuses University of racial discrimination


Detail of court document from case number CGC-15-43853 filed at San Francisco Superior Court on Oct. 23, 2016.

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.