College reprimands black faculty member for racial harassment; she sues

Shannon Gibney

A Minnesota college has reprimanded a faculty member for creating a “hostile learning environment” by targeting “students based on their race and gender.” The faculty member is black; the complaining students are white.

When three white male students in Shannon Gibney’s mass communication class at Minneapolis Community and Technical College complained because she discussed structural racism in every class, Gibney invited the students to file a racial harassment complaint. The students took her up on the suggestion, according to The Raw Story.

“It was inappropriate for you to single out white male students in class,” Lois Bollman, the college’s vice president of academic affairs, wrote in a letter of reprimand to Gibney. “Your actions in [targeting] select students based on their race and gender caused them embarrassment and created a hostile learning environment. For that reason, I have determined that a reprimand is warranted.”

This isn’t the first time Gibney was criticized for going over the top in directing racially charged comments to people of color.

In 2009, she was invited to speak to the staff at City College News, the college’s student newspaper, and used the occasion to criticize white editorial staffers for not doing enough to combat structural racism, according to Minneapolis City Pages.

One of the editors who were singled out, identified only as Ryan, responded with this email to Gibney:

I found the nature of your comments to be inflammatory, racist, and sexist–”its been white men.” A statement such as this that implicates some hidden discrimination within our institution in one blanket hateful generalization is both unprofessional and violates the mission statement of MCTC. I would ask you to stop such gross generalizations because they are indeed racist, sexist, and simply hateful. It would be the same as standing up in class and stating that, “I hate all these black women because they always are irrationally screaming at other people.”

Instead of backing down, Gibney copied students and other faculty members in her reply to Ryan, prompting him to file a formal complaint claiming that Gibney violated his rights under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Ryan told City Pages that although he doesn’t believe the incident resulted in a formal reprimand, he believes Gibney was verbally admonished.

Gibney is one of seven employees who have filed a class action lawsuit against the college, alleging that it creates a discriminatory workplace environment.

She referred to the reprimand letter at a meeting with lawyers investigating the litigants’ claims, stating that the vice president’s words “have helped those three white male students succeed in undermining my authority as one of the few remaining black female professors here.”

Whites comprise the minority at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

Watch the news report from CMS affiliate WCCO.


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About Michael Dorstewitz

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  • michaelh613

    As she clearly intends to harrass students based on race and gender violating state and federal civil rights law she should be immediately terminated for cause. In any job outside academia one incident of racial or sexual harrassment is grounds for termination. Universities should also follow this policy.

    • Mickey

      Even in academia one instance is grounds for termination. But only if it’s white people doing the discrimination. There is a double standard in this country and it’s time for white people to stand up and fight it. Forget being ashamed or feeling guilty. I have never discriminated against anyone in my life and I refuse to be punished for something that happened years ago that I had nothing to do with. It’s because of reverses discrimination that I didn’t get hired to my local fire department back in the 80′s. They ran out of qualified minority candidates so they had to scrap the white list. Now if that happened to a black woman there would have been a law suit. End racial discrimination now. Fight the racist African Americans holding the white man down.

  • handsomedan


    • George Gaither

      You have painted all black people with the same brush. I have respect for all of my fellow humans, I only recognize one race, the human race.

      • handsomedan


        • George Gaither

          I agree she should be fired.

  • aliswell

    Shannon Gibney epitomizes the rotten underbelly of tenure and why it should be abolished.

    • Josh

      Tenure should not, in a “broad stroke” manner, be removed and dissolved. At very least, there should be more forced clarity, regarding the performance and conduct of any administration official, or teacher, when it comes to consideration for tenure. The consideration for granting tenure, should be thorough, and should be no less picky, than when an applicant is considered for a job. Just like countless jobs, that have “probationary” periods, school personnel who desire tenure need be given a 3+ year probationary period, when they reach the moment of being considered for tenure. If within the first 3 years of obtaining tenure, they violate any major rule, or show minimal, or a void, as far as their amounts of class, when it regards tenure, then they need be boldly reprimanded, and by that, they should be removed from the honor of being granted of viewed as having tenure. If after the probationary period, following being granted tenure, they succeed in being worthy of tenure, then they need to have it analyzed and renewed, like a driver’s license, periodically. If at any time, they violate their position, in any unethical manner, then they need be properly punished

      • Mickey

        Why is tenure ok. Name another job where you have that kind of protection against losing your job. none. Tenure is unions holding taxpayers hostage.

        • American Hunter

          IRS employees, State Department employees, HHS and CMS employees…I can keep going if you want.

  • Margie

    Mass communication – These courses include the study of the media by which entertainment and
    information messages are delivered, including the traditional mass
    media: their functions, structures, supports, and influences. – Doesn’t say anything about having to talk about racism. If it were talked about in a positive manner, (all things for that reason) then it would be looked at to used a a racial tool.

  • proudwhite

    THAT is what you get for HIRING a “AFFIRMATIVE ACTION” Professor…NOT as bright as her students, and RACIST. Now she will use that FAT ASS AL SHARPTON RACE CARD. BLACKS ..can NOT succeed without it.

  • Hugh Gard

    once power is acheived, its all too common. & universities that you cant get a job there if you are white. I know this from experience. they admit it , not bashful.

  • Josh

    Happily, I feel no need to assault my hearing and sight, by watching her likely drama-filled retort. If in fact she does this, as far as singling out specific genders and ethnicities in her classes, or even just in her dictations and lectures, then she violates countless ethic rules, that as a “educator”, and especially as a “authority” figure, she should know never to do, without immediately, before unleashing hateful statements and offensive views, relieve herself of the post. Any judge/jury who sides with beings like her, deserves to lose their positions of authority in society, along with her specifically being forever removed and denied and future position as a “educator”, in any decent and reputable institution. Racism is actually colorless, even though countless people only acknowledge it, when a “white” person reportedly commits it against other ethnicities. Bias, regardless how it’s applied, is equally universal, as with racism; Gender-bias, as with this and similar problems, is not solely a male offending a female. If she does/did in reality commit such gross and all out wrong verbal and expressionary crimes, then the college, along with all accessible and willing possible “victims” should jump at the chance to take her to court, if she chooses to sue the college. If I were in the students’ position, and I felt like I acquired real and potentially abundant amounts of evidence, that my so-called instructor, was repeatedly and boldly committing what she is accused of, I would want my lawyers, and the school I was attending, to be aggressive, regarding their opposition to her suit. I would easily consider, the more she threatened legal trouble, especially the more she pressed for it, going and tearing into her personality, in and out of class. I would push for the school and lawyers who should protect and represent the student(if with enough reason), more than the instructor. If she did what they accuse her of, and if she also does not back down and stop any threats of lawsuits, then the school and their lawyers need to be equally unrelenting, and battle her in court. The student(s) desired to study there, and they pay for good education, not for assault and politics.

  • Mickey

    If the Black Professors are going to spread this hate, then they should be fired. Racism works both ways and the sooner this country realises this the better. It’s time for people of color to stop hiding behind race. To stop using the color of their skin as an excuse for their failures.

    • Aaron Barnes

      i think people who uses their color of their skin for excuses are racist no matter wht color they are. i know many black people who are successful and didn’t allow their color of their skin to interfere with their success

  • rhodes autry

    call her a whaaaaaambulance

  • Janfrans Zuidema

    A couple of contemporary conflicts: Animal vs. Human, Human vs.
    Technology, The Abrahamists vs. The non-believers, Conservative vs. Democrat, America vs. China, NSA vs. privacy… etc.

    I think there is a lot of ground to cover in a communication
    study. As a sociologist I cannot believe that a teacher choses the conflict of race. Everyone knows that race is a social representation. It’s an illusion. So it’s not just silly to choose race, its racist…