Ex-Director Files Whistleblower Suit Against University of New Mexico

September 21, 2020

The University of New Mexico retaliated against the director of Africana Studies for demanding that his program be elevated to a department and later removed him when the program got state funding for the change, according to a whistleblower lawsuit.

An attorney for Charles Becknell Jr. filed the whistleblower lawsuit in state district court last month alleging the school retaliated against him and failed to adequately investigate a series of racist and threatening emails he received.

Becknell sought to elevate Africana Studies from a program to a department that would grant undergraduate and graduate degrees after Chicano Studies and Native American Studies had achieved department status, the lawsuit said.

But a dean told Becknell that the University of New Mexico was focused on elevating Chicano Studies to a department and an upgrade of Africana Studies wasn’t in the immediate plans, the lawsuit claims.

After Africana Studies got state funding to become a department, Becknell was told it needed a tenure-track professor to lead the new program and Becknell was removed.

The University of New Mexico said Becknell remains the director of the Africana Studies program and will search for a new director when it becomes a department.

Becknell is seeking unspecified damages and his old position.

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