Utah state graduate awarded $45,000 after saying professor drew a “raccoon caricature” of him

A black graduate sued Utah State University earlier this year after he said his professor drew a racist “raccoon caricature” of him that was shown on screen in front of his entire class.

When he tried to report it, Greg Noel said he found the process “degrading” and the school did little to investigate. His concerns drew national attention to discrimination in higher education.

Noel is now set to receive $45,000 in compensation for what he went through.

The amount is part of a settlement signed by school officials this week that will also effectively end his lawsuit. The Salt Lake Tribune obtained a copy of the agreement through a public records request.

“With this case resolved, we will continue to drive the creation of a culture of belonging at Utah State University,” the school said in a statement Friday. In this case, USU does not recognize any fault.

Noel’s lawyers did not respond to a request for comment from The Tribune.

When he first filed his case in March, Noel had said, “Enough is enough. I felt cheated by Utah State University. I felt totally betrayed.”

The case marks at least the fourth major settlement for the northern Utah university since 2018. Overall, the Logan Public School has paid nearly $1 million for these settlements, which are ultimately funded by taxpayers.

These other cases are two allegations of sexual assault and one of retaliation as USU has faced a number of lawsuits in recent years.

In Noel’s case, the school said it has been working over the past year to improve its outreach and support at its Office of Justice.

“Whenever there are allegations of discrimination, USU strives to address and deter the behavior and provide a fair and equitable process to resolve grievances,” the statement said.

In his court documents and in an interview, Noel described feeling attacked by a professor who he said made offensive comments about his Haitian background and refused to teach him, the only black student in the Marital and Family Therapy graduate school program, to support.

Noel said he chose not to use the professor’s name in the lawsuit for fear of further retaliation; The professor works in the mental health field in Utah and still serves in a leadership position at the school. Noel is currently in private practice.

The abuse, Noel said, began in October 2018, during his freshman semester at Utah State University.

A computer he was using in a lab shorted out, erasing four pages of its assignment. Frustrated, Noel admitted, he shouted some profanity and pushed a chair. The professor found out about the outbreak, Noel said, and emailed Noel to say they needed to meet to discuss it.

At the meeting, the professor allegedly accused Noel of being violent and asked if he abused others, including his wife.

Noel said the professor then asked him in a derogatory tone, “Did you choose a full Haitian there?”

Noel said he was stunned by the racist comment he saw. But he tried to dismiss it, knowing full well that he would have to work with the professor in the future.

Afterwards, Noel said he felt the professor intentionally ignored him in the class discussions. The professor also kept mentioning how much power he had over graduate students and their future careers, Noel said.

Noel was at a turning point in 2020, he said, and shared his concerns with the university after the white professor drew a cartoon image that Noel said was intended to be an exaggerated portrayal of him as “the angry black man.”

In the drawing, Noel’s large, well-groomed afro was shown even larger and protruding wildly. His thick eyebrows were thicker and angrier and wrinkled, along with a huge mustache that took up much of his face. His skin was darker too.

(Screenshot) An image included in the lawsuit filed by Greg Noel shows his picture alongside the drawing his Utah State University made of him in March 2020.

It reminded Noel, he said, of the racist “raccoon caricatures” drawn by black people in the South in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — showing them with dramatic and stereotypical facial features like big lips and feet and either attitude anger or anger laziness – used as an argument for the return of slavery.

The professor didn’t seem to notice that others could see the image as he played a pre-recorded training session on a screen at the front of the room. But the drawing bounced off his computer onto the screen for the class to see.

According to his lawsuit, other students also recognized Noel in it, took photos of the exhibit, and sent them to Noel. “Haha! Look what he’s doing,” one classmate wrote. “Why is he drawing you?” said another in a text thread. “That’s you. So strange.”

Noel filed a report on his experience with the professor with USU’s Office of Equity in March 2020 — months before he was due to graduate.

The process lasted two years and ended in May 2022, with no consequences for the professor – despite findings from the Equity Office that the subscription was inappropriate and a recommendation that a warning letter be placed on the professor’s file. That suggestion was rejected by a senior administrator at the school, email records confirm.

Noel said he felt the university let him down in that resolution and in doing little to actually investigate his allegations. And with so few black students at USU — 82% of the school is white and less than 1% is black — he worried that the school might not listen to future black students speaking out about racism.

Justin Scaccy

InternetCloning is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – admin@internetcloning.com. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button