Ex-Director Files Whistleblower Suit Against University of New Mexico

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.