Denisha Seals, a former teaching assistant at the University of Nebraska Omaha’s Department of English, is suing the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, UNO, the Chancellor of UNO, the department chairperson and her program supervisor for racial discrimination.
Seals filed the lawsuit alleging multiple members of the UNO Department of English discriminated against her as an afro-indigenous woman and violated her civil and constitutional rights after repeating acts of racism, harassment and bullying.
Starting as a teaching assistant in 2020 Seals was forced to withdraw from the program after just 4 weeks, says her attorney John Cartier.
The lawsuit describes Seals mental health worsening during her time in the program saying “Ms. Seals’ condition continued to deteriorate. Ms. Seals began having nightmares, and as a result, her psychiatrist increased her medication.”
The complaint details numerous incidents of racism, bullying, and harassment suffered by Seals.
“There’s at least seven incidents that are detailed, pretty specifically, about what happened,” Cartier said.
One incident alleges a fellow teaching assistant and another professor at the university told Seals there was a competition going on to see “how long she would last in the program because of how racist it was.” They then told her that a couple people in the program were placing bets.
Another incident alleges Seal’s supervisor told her to wear looser fitting clothing, saying, “Even a regular cotton t-shirt with no bust line showing would be inappropriate. She stated that, as a black woman, she needs to be aware that black women have been historically sexualized by white men and that this would not be an issue for her if she followed the traditional dress code she was asking only Ms. Seals to adhere to.”
The suit also alleges Seals’ supervising professor told Seals she was making white students and the professor uncomfortable by addressing white privilege.
Cartier says that there are two goals for the lawsuit, they want Seals to receive compensation for the harassment and discrimination she allegedly faced, and to give others who have experienced the same issues encouragement to share what they’ve faced.
The University of Nebraska Omaha responded with a statement Wednesday evening saying “UNO is committed to providing a learning, teaching, and working environment that is free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. With respect to Ms. Seals’ case, the university strongly disagrees with the allegations in the complaint. UNO successfully defended this matter before the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission and intends to vigorously defend this lawsuit.”
Seals is seeking emotional and monetary damages, and wants to require all staffers in UNO’s English department to take mandatory anti-racist training each year.
To view the full lawsuit you can click on this link here.