Professors should have known their ‘experiment’ was faulty
A white home appraiser accused of racism by two black Johns Hopkins University professors hit back at the allegations with a countersuit.
Shane Lanham’s recent counterclaim responded to a federal lawsuit from couple Nathan Connolly and Shani Mott, both JHU professors, that he valued their home differently because they are black. The pair later set up an experiment where they removed identifiers from their home that would suggest to an appraiser that they were black and said the valuation increased from about $470,000 to $750,000. They also asked a white friend to present himself as the homeowner.
Mott teaches Africana studies and Connolly’s research focuses on racism, capitalism and housing, according to his faculty bio. The New York Times called Connolly an “expert on redlining and the legacy of white supremacy in American cities.”
But their claims would fail to pass basic academic muster if treated as scholarship, Lanham argued in his counterclaim, which includes a suit for defamation. The racism claims achieved national coverage such as in ABC News. The resulting allegations have harmed Lanham’s business and reputation, according to the lawsuit.
“Dr. Connolly and Dr. Mott’s ill-conceived ‘experiment’ involving different appraisers, a seven-month gap, and intervening changes in market conditions would not withstand even basic scrutiny in the serious academic environment in which they work,” Lanham’s counterclaim stated.
The lawsuit noted that the professors “failed to disclose the sale of the similar house next door to their home that sold only a month after Mr. Lanham and 20/20 Valuations’ appraisal for $7,000 less than the amount of the appraisal.”
Both professors should have known their “experiment,” according to the lawsuit, “was serious flawed in so many respects that a first-year undergraduate would immediately recognize.”
The legal filing stated that the professors have not provided Lanham with the second appraisal that “supposedly supports their contention that their house was undervalued during.”
But even if the second appraiser valued the Mott and Connolly home at $750,000 for a refinance, a nearby and similar house showed that Lanham’s valuation was reasonable, according to the lawsuit.
A nearby house, similar to the home in question, sold for $510,000.
The suit accused the pair of creating a “a self-serving media campaign” and “falsely accused Mr. Lanham and 20/20 Valuations of undervaluing their home based on their race.”
The public statements “exposed Mr. Lanham and 20/20 Valuations to public scorn, hatred, contempt, or ridicule, thereby discouraging others in the community from having a good opinion of [him and his company].”
Lanham’s suit requested $250,000 in damages.
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