A civil lawsuit filed Jan. 25 by former Thomas Edison State University employee Joseph Youngblood II against TESU, President Merodie Hancock and others has prompted AFT Local 4277 and AFTNJ to speak out in support of TESU’s AFT members, the school’s reputation and the legal process.

In his suit, Youngblood alleges that over the course of his employment at TESU, which began 2003, he was “subjected to an ongoing campaign of blatant discriminatory practices and an environment of fear and intimidation.” Youngblood, a black man, was TESU’s vice provost and dean of the School of Public Service at the time of his constructive discharge in March 2021.

On Feb. 9, two TESU board members sent an email to university staffers that said in part, “After thoroughly looking into these claims, we believe them to be unfounded and are ready to defend against them.”

Later that same day, AFT Local 4277 President Charlene Martucci emailed her members, acknowledging that while “there are always two sides to every story, these reports paint an extremely disturbing picture. … I am currently consulting with our AFT Council as well as leadership at AFTNJ to ensure that our members are protected against any form of discrimination or hateful rhetoric, and that TESU’s hard-earned reputation is not shattered by the stain of racism.”

“Allegations such as those brought forth by Joseph Youngblood against TESU need to be taken very seriously,” AFTNJ President Donna M. Chiera said Feb. 13. “He’s seeking justice through the legal process, and management and members of the board of trustees should not be making statements dismissing these charges before the legal process is complete. Such statements could be viewed as an attempt to sway the outcome before a full investigation by an outside entity is conducted.”

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