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University sued for dean’s alleged remarks about black, gay employee

Dean had been critic of some DEI initiatives 

The University of Houston-Downtown is facing a lawsuit that claims a former dean discriminated against a black, gay staff member.

The lawsuit alleges that Carlos Gooden, the university’s executive director of graduate business programs, faced discrimination on the basis of race and sexual orientation from the former dean of the business school who hired him, Charles Gengler.

A longtime friend of Gengler’s, however, argues the lawsuit is filled with unsubstantiated fabrications, and Gengler’s attorney has called the complaint a “sham.”

Following Gooden’s hiring around October 2021, Gengler allegedly claimed it would make him look good that he hired a black man.

Another incident cited in the lawsuit occurred in April 2022 after campus police issued a crime alert regarding an assault by a tall black man. Gengler allegedly said to colleagues that maybe Gooden was responsible since he was out of the office at the time.

The comment, likely intended as a joke, was labeled by the lawsuit as “racially derogatory,” causing Gooden “embarrassment and humiliation.” The lawsuit claims such behavior from Gengler became “an almost daily occurrence.”

The University of Houston-Downtown conducted a year-long review of Gengler’s behavior after Gooden filed a discrimination complaint in the spring of 2022.

Two preliminary investigation reports “substantiated” that Gengler “said on multiple occasions that it would make him look good that he hired a Black, gay man,” according to documents obtained by Inside Higher Ed through an anonymous source. It reportedly states Gengler’s conduct was mostly “suggestive comments, jokes, microaggressions, slights, double entendre and boorish behavior.”

But Mitchell Langbert, an associate professor of business at Brooklyn College and a longtime friend of Gengler’s, told The College Fix in an August 2 email that “allegations in a confidential preliminary report that was released to the media are allegedly false, fabricated, and defamatory.”

“The concoction of falsified evidence was allegedly motivated by Gengler’s political views and [his] opposition to UHD’s racist DEI policies,” said Langbert, who has known Gengler for 32 years.

He added the preliminary report should never have been leaked to the media.

Gengler’s lawyer, Alfonso Kennard, told Inside Higher Ed that “None of what’s stated in that lawsuit is true.”

“…This is one of those cases where they have attempted to massacre his reputation but, not so fast, the truth will come out as needed. But, you know, he’s [Gengler] not someone that rose to the level that he rose by being the kind of person that he’s being described as in some sham lawsuit.”

Marilyn Davies, who the College of Business is named after, reportedly defended Gengler in a November letter anonymously acquired by Inside Higher Ed. 

“In all the times I have interacted with Dean Gengler, he has put UHD first. First in his conversations, and first in his commitment to assist all the students and the school. Never have his comments ever been even close to racist, sexist or homophobic,” Davies wrote.

“Isn’t it interesting that the person the [sic] filed the complaint about Dean Gengler about being racist is the same person that was hired by Dean Gengler as the best person for the job?” Davies wrote. “Isn’t it interesting that the person who filed the complaint against Dean Gengler is the same person who after six months asked for a raise and a promotion, was turned down, because they were still on probation?”

Deborah Bordelon, the university’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, notified faculty and staff on March 23 that Gengler was leaving the university on May 31 in a statement that commended him for his “service” and “achievements,” Inside Higher Ed reported.

Bordelon told The College Fix she has no further comments to add at this time. Kennard told Inside Higher Ed that Gengler has a confidentiality agreement with the University of Houston-Downtown.

A 2021 faculty survey found, among other things, that white male employees at the University of Houston-Downtown reported that they were oppressed, marginalized or discriminated against because of their skin color or conservative views.

Langbert told The College Fix: “There are allegations of reverse racism involving systematic removal of administrators because of race. Gengler’s resignation may be part of that pattern.”

A source told Langbert that Gengler reportedly faced backlash for publicly opposing the university president’s “targeted hiring initiative” mentioned in an email by former Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Eric Carl Link to colleagues.

“A source indicates that the term ‘targeted hiring’ referred to UHD’s administrators’ having been told ‘to hire ONLY Black or Hispanic candidates for positions.’ A source says that Gengler opposed this publicly and the DEI-oriented faculty and administration then set their sights on Gengler,” Langbert said.

According to Gooden’s lawsuit, filed May 30, he has suffered economic losses, as well as emotional harm as a result of his unlawful discrimination,” the lawsuit states, citing “mental anguish” and “loss of enjoyment of life.”

Gooden did not respond to a request for comment from The College Fix.

MORE: Fired Christian biology professor files religious discrimination complaint

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About the Author
Margaret Peppiatt - Franciscan University of Steubenville