Former assistant professor Ka Wah Wong is suing Minnesota State University, Mankato claiming discrimination of race and nation of origin.
Wong, being of Chinese descent, asserts he was denied a tenure-track position due to his accent. The University denies any wrongdoing.
The lawsuit seeks financial damages, accusing MNSU and the Minnesota State System of violating the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on protected classes such as race and nation of origin.
The lawsuit also accuses the professors in charge of the hiring process of aiding and abetting discrimination.
Wong started at MNSU as an adjunct professor of astronomy in 2014, and taught as a non-tenure track assistant professor of astronomy during 2017. During the beginning of 2018, Wong was also employed as a research scientist in the same department.
In 2017, Wong applied for a tenure-track assistant professor of astronomy position, and it was announced in 2018 that he was one of three finalists for the job. According to the lawsuit, the other two candidates for the position were white.
The hiring process consisted of interviews with faculty members, an example lecture, and research seminar.
After this process, the University chose to hire one of the white candidates, who then declined the offer, so the position was subsequently offered to the other white candidate.
According to Wong, the University chose to neglect his “objective qualifications” when it came to prior experience at MNSU, research experience and grant dollars brought to the University.
The lawsuit claims that “Despite Wong’s superior objective qualifications for the position, MSU has asserted that it did not hire him for the position because he had the lowest scores on the evaluations of his research seminar presentation and lecture.”
The University declined to provide Wong with evaluations on the other two candidates, but did provide Wong’s own evaluation and scores.
According to the lawsuit, these scores showed high marks in all areas except “clarity of speech.”
MNSU Director of Media Relations, Dan Benson sent the following statement in regard to the lawsuit.
“Minnesota State University, Mankato is committed to equal opportunity and non-discrimination in employment and education. The University does not comment on pending litigation.”