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College president investigated after allegedly making ‘discriminatory’ comments

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Blackburn College’s president was recently investigated after allegedly making “discriminatory” comments during a meeting.

The Burnian, Blackburn Colleges’ newspaper, recently reported during an April 17 search committee meeting formed to find a new Director or Marketing and Public Relations, the college’s president, Dr. Julie Murray-Jensen, allegedly made several discriminatory comments that broke Title VII laws.

Murray-Jensen told The Burnian before the investigation ended she thought it was “not appropriate” for the staff to report on the investigation while it’s ongoing. She said she would “really discourage” any reporting before the end of the investigation.

She could not be reached later for comment.

Mark Zobel, a former executive director at the school who was present at the meeting., told The Burnian that Murray-Jensen made three separate statements during the meeting, all of which were verified and validated by others who were also at the meeting.

One such comment was allegedly made about an Asian woman, which Zobel said Murray-Jensen said would have trouble filling the role.

“What I recall was that she said this position would probably not be filled by a ‘typical small, timid, Asian woman,’ “ he said. “This is a clear violation of Title VII.”

Title VII guidelines make it illegal for colleges to use race or sex as means of hiring or not hiring someone.

Murray-Jensen went on to add that she was concerned that a statement in the job posting about diversity and inclusion would “deter white applicants,” Zobel said. He added that she said personally was deterred by the statement when she applied for her job as president in 2018.

The third violation Zobel identified to The Burnian was when Murray-Jensen allegedly identified a “bonus category” and stated that a person of color “would be a bonus.”

Blackburn Provost Jon McClusky told the college’s Board of Trustees he believes Murray-Jensen’s goal was to highlight “how there may be bias” or “stereotypes.” He said her intent was different from what witnesses heard.

Zobel said it’s unlikely that four people could have all misunderstood the president.

Murray-Jensen joined Blackburn College as its president in early 2019. She replaced former President Dr. John Comerford, who left the college in 2018.

Blackburn faculty and staff have been ensured that Blackburn administration will not punish them for talking about the incident or coming forward with more information.

An opinion piece written by “the majority of the Blackburn faculty” appeared in The Burnian May 17.

An investigation into the statements was opened and conducted by an independent law firm that focuses on equal employment and discrimination.

Blackburn’s Board of Trustees recently announced the investigation had concluded and ruled Murray-Jensen had not violated any rules or laws. The findings of that investigation was sent to faculty and staff.

More than eight hours of interviews were conducted and communication and documentation provided by witnesses were also review. That investigation concluded that no policy violations had been made by the president.

“The concerns that prompted the investigation, as well as the report itself, make clear that opportunities exist for Dr. Murray-Jensen to continue to acclimate to the College’s culture and to ensure that her words and deeds advance our mission of ‘critical and independent thinking, leadership development, diversity and inclusion, service, shared governance, and moral responsibility,’“ the statement read.

Board President Hazel Loucks said she believes its time to “move on” from the incident. She said the investigation supported that the president’s comments were misinterpreted.

Now, Loucks said, the college plans to engage students, faculty and staff to ensure things like this don’t happen again.

“We just want to move forward,” she said. “Anything that disrupts the process of what should be going on at the campus is discouraging.”

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