Don Ayotte and Doug Beatty
Myself and others from The Independent Party of Delaware attended an arbitration hearing on Tuesday May 28th at the Carvel Building in Wilmington. The meeting was held to arbitrate a grievance of dismissal in the case of Dr. Jahi Issa, an African American History Professor at Delaware State University. I expected a modicum of professionalism and courtesy but what we were all confronted with was one of the worst examples of institutional racism and corruption that I’ve ever personally witnessed.
In the room for this ten and a half hour hearing were a large and diverse group of activists and supporters from as far a Atlanta Georgia and Philadelphia. Many local Delaware Black and White activists arrived to show support for what has become known as the “worst case of institutional corruption and racism,” that has happened lately in Delaware. The meeting had to be stopped several times to add many chairs for the supporters that continued to flow into the room.
Among activists present supporting Dr. Issa were Pam Africa, Tony Riddick from North Carolina and local organizers lik DJRock Forrest and Phile Chionesu who organized the million woman march in 1997. The implications of this broad coalition of support for Dr. Issa should serve as a wake up call to many.
A prima faciae case of conflict of interest, reared its ugly head at the hearing, with the selection of Washington DC attorney, Justin Keating Esq., who was originally employed by DSU’s, AAUP Union to represent Dr. Jahi Issa, and was his attorney for a short time, until it was discovered that he did not have credentials to practice law in Delaware. He was then hired by Union President, Dr. Steve Newton to represent the AAUP Union at the hearing, defending the union in an action against Dr. Issa. When confronted with this revelation the hearing Arbitrator, Charlie Long stated that it was not his concern and Dr. Issa would have to take it up at the appeal. This indicated that Mr. Long had already made his decision beforehand and the hearing was merely a legal technicality.
Despite some philosophical difference with Dr. Steve Newton, we have to give him credit for being honest and admitting under oath that the DSU AAUP Board had hired Justin Keating as an attorney to represent Dr. Issa during a meeting where he was terminated from employment at DSU. Dr. Newton’s frank admission under oath may provide gounds for reversible error, if Dr. Issa’s complaint is not sustained.
Mr. Long appeared to be in ill health and had the appearance of being exhumed from the grave for just this hearing. From time to time, during recesses, he lapsed into rants of his own self-importance speaking to Mr. Keating of how many hearings he had accomplished and wasn’t well liked by many people. Instead of speaking civily to Dr. Issa, he shouted, berating him for having subpoenaed Gov Markell. Markell is on the board of DSU, and there were some indications of governmental influence involved with the dismissal of Dr. Issa. Mr. Long bragged about his friendship with Governor Markell during some recesses.
Former DSU Tenured Professor of Physical Chemistry, Dr. H. Preston Hayward who founded the graduate program at DSU in Chemistry testified that after 28 years of teaching at DSU, he was fired,without just cause and without arbitration. He further testified that, DSU is currently on a schedule to, “get rid of all black males from the teaching staff.” Dr. Haywood also stated, he was asked to changed the grades on students to increase the graduation rate; when he wouldn’t do it, the grades were changed by the administration. To avoid rebuttal by attorney Justin Keating, Mr. Long told Mr. Keating that Haywood’s testimony would be given no consideration.