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Former Liberty diversity director sues school
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Former Liberty diversity director sues school

Another Black man once employed by Liberty University in a diversity leadership role has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the university.

LeeQuan McLaurin went to LU and worked as an associate director of student engagement starting in 2018, then was assigned to be its director of diversity retention in February 2020 despite declining the position for pay reasons, the lawsuit states.

His complaint lists seven violations of state and federal civil rights laws, claiming the school’s senior management discriminated against him as a Black, gay, Christian man and retaliated against him after he lodged Human Resources complaints.

He asks for missed pay, benefits and other damages but doesn’t specify any dollar amounts. Past that, he also demands discrimination training for all LU employees, “supervisory discipline” and firing of any discriminatory employees and monitoring by the court or a federal agency to ensure compliance with those provisions.

In his lawsuit, McLaurin describes several occasions where a supervisor yelled at him about Christian condemnation of homosexuality. The supervisor “demanded that he profess an understanding that God hates LGBTQIA+ people,” accused him of having an agenda to advocate for LGBTQ students and “insisted that LGBTQIA+ students did not deserve help from McLaurin or his office,” according to the lawsuit.

“In November 2019, Mr. McLaurin’s supervisor told him that homophobia did not exist at Liberty University and that he and other members of the LGBTQIA+ community should be happy that Liberty ‘allowed’ them to be there,” the complaint reads.

McLaurin’s complaint also states LU used his email and likeness without his consent to send out student invitations to a campus event for conservative influencer Candace Owen’s “Blexit” movement pushing Black people to leave the Democratic Party.

When offered the position of director of diversity retention in early 2020, McLaurin said he declined because of a pay disparity — offered $52,000 to take on more roles than his predecessor, a “cisgender Hispanic” person who was paid $60,000. Prior to that, he said he was “fulfilling the job duties of two vacant director roles” on the promise of a promotion but never received any additional compensation.

The students he worked with were part of what kept him going during that time, he said when reached for an interview this week, recalling walking with some students to LU’s Office of Community Life to report discrimination they’d experienced, especially LGBTQ students — some fearing they’d be expelled.

“For me … no one else is really here advocating for these students and they need somebody,” McLaurin said.

Once LU assigned him to the director role anyway, McLaurin said he wrote his supervisor about the pay disparity but his pay was never increased; he “simply received a hollow promise that so long as he did his job effectively his salary would be increased,” the lawsuit states.

McLaurin approached HR about the issues on multiple occasions “but nothing was done,” according to the suit.

“After these meetings, Mr. McLaurin was routinely excluded from meetings about diversity on Liberty University’s campus, directly impacting Mr. McLaurin’s role as the Director of Diversity Retention and his ability to adequately perform his work,” the complaint states.

He was “constructively discharged” from his role in June 2020, according to the suit. Soon after, he started raising money to support Black employees leaving jobs at LU, following tweets by LU’s then-president Jerry Falwell Jr. that were decried as racist jabs at coronavirus mandates from Gov. Ralph Northam.

McLaurin said that fundraising effort provided $2,000 in aid to eight people parting from LU. Since requests have stopped coming in, he and others who’ve left the university are brainstorming how to allocate leftover money to serve a similar purpose.

Last year, three Black student-athletes announced they were transferring in reaction to Falwell’s tweets. Falwell hired two high-profile Black men with ties to LU sports — former LU wide receiver and NFL player Kelvin Edwards and former coach Turner Gill — into diversity roles before resigning last summer.

Edwards filed a discrimination lawsuit against LU earlier this month, and so far nothing else has been filed in that case. LU has stated he wasn’t qualified for the role and it offered him alternative employment or compensation, which it said he refused. Gill doesn’t appear on the university’s website.

Another pending lawsuit in federal court filed earlier this year takes LU and other religious institutions of higher education to task for perpetuating homophobic culture on campus that harms LGBTQ students. That class action lawsuit seeks to remove certain religious exemptions to Title IX discrimination complaints for those institutions.

LU officials did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.

Now a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant, McLaurin said he’s concerned about underreported Title IX discrimination claims at LU and a lack of commitment to creating a safe and inclusive environment for all of its students.

“I really hope that they are held accountable,” he said. “At what point is enough enough?”

“I really hope that they are held accountable. At what point is enough enough?”

— LeeQuan McLaurin, former director of diversity retention at Liberty University

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