Nov 18, 2019
Dr. Malik Raheem, former Fresno State professor, stands in his office on Oct. 4, 2018. Raheem was placed on paid administrative leave following a settlement with the university and the California State University system. The settlement stemmed from complaints Raheem made against the university. (Jose Romo/The Collegian)

He complained about retaliation. Fresno State’s solution cost him his job

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a statement from the dean of the Kremen School of Education and Human Development. 

professor in the Kremen School of Education is no longer teaching his classes and will soon leave his office for good after settling harassment and retaliation complaints against the university.

The California State University system and counseling and rehabilitation professor Dr. Malik Raheem agreed mutually to settle the complaints following a Fresno State investigation. In exchange, the university will pay Raheem until May 2019, but Raheem can no longer teach.

“For my mental well-being, it’d be best for me to just go ahead and take the settlement and just go on,” Raheem said. “I’ve never been raised to be in a place where someone definitely doesn’t want you, where you’re not welcome.”

Raheem, who has taught at Fresno State since 2012, was ordered to return his office keys and university equipment by Oct. 19, he said. He taught four courses in the fall semester, including introduction to counseling and multicultural career counseling. He hasn’t taught them as of Oct. 1.

Raheem’s exit at Fresno State came after a battle within the department of counseling and rehabilitation in the Kremen School of Education that began as far back as late 2015. According to documents obtained by The Collegian, Raheem was at the center of an internal investigation that was started after Raheem accused two professors – named in the document as Drs. Kyle Weir and Dan Smith – of acting against him in department evaluations and in consideration of Raheem’s tenure.

A report issued after the investigation, and given to The Collegian, claims that Weir and Smith retaliated against Raheem. The documents detail a comment allegedly made by Weir that was “highly offensive and hostile” to Raheem.

The comment appears to have come from a meeting in 2015, in which Weir allegedly brought up the topic of abortions in the African American community as Raheem tried to discuss how the department could support black students amid the “Black Lives Matter” movement that sprouted that year.

“There was stunned silence after his comments were made, but Dr. Weir still believes his comments were misconstrued,” reads part of the investigation document outlining the incident. Several people in the Kremen school were interviewed as part of the investigation.

That incident was investigated and resolved, according to the investigation documents signed by human resources manager Kirsten Corey, who declined to comment for this story.

The comments allegedly made by Weir were still present in Raheem’s mind when he was denied tenure earlier in 2018 because Weir and Smith, who allegedly admitted to engaging in poor collegiality against Raheem, were reportedly in the committee to review Raheem’s tenure application. Raheem alleged in his complaint that the denial of his tenure was based on an unfair process that was never addressed in the Kremen school.

RELATED: Fresno State looks to improve culture of accountability

Raheem contends that “If the university was sincere about the whole tenure process, they should have removed those two people from the very beginning.” He then filed further grievances with complaints that he was being discriminated against in the Kremen school.

But all of Raheem’s allegations were settled as part of the agreement with the CSU, signed by the board of trustees and stamped by Fresno State’s Vice President for Administration Deborah Adishian-Astone. Raheem’s pay will continue at over $6,000 monthly until May 2019 and will include benefits.

“You will be placed on paid administrative leave through the end of 2018-2019 academic year. During this time,  you will not have any university responsibilities,” a letter from interim Associate Vice President for Faculty Affairs Dr. Rudy Sanchez said. It continued: “In exchange for this financial settlement, you agree to withdraw all allegations you have made against the university.”

The two professors named in the investigation documents are still teaching, according to Fresno State spokeswoman Lisa Boyles. Weir declined to provide a comment for this story and deferred any questions to the dean of the Kremen school. The dean was not available for comment. Associate dean Julie Olsen-Buchanan deferred questions to University Communications.

On Wednesday, Director of University Communications Patti Waid released a statement on behalf of Kremen school dean Laura Alamillo that states: “As Professor Raheem indicated in The Collegian article, a voluntary settlement agreement was mutually agreed to by all parties. His classes have been assigned to other Kremen School instructors. In the Kremen School of Education & Human Development, we prepare educators for culturally diverse communities, and promote an equitable and inclusive educational experience for our students. Our programs are state- and nationally-accredited.” It continued: “I appreciate the commitment and dedication of our distinguished faculty and staff to student success and their collaboration and partnerships with our educational communities.”

Chair of the department of counseling and rehabilitation Song Lee refused to answer questions over the phone and hung up on Tuesday after a reporter asked a question.

Speaking to The Collegian recently about his settlement with the university, Raheem said he’s concerned Fresno State is not serving his fall semester students by negotiating his leave from the university.

“I was doing the things that I felt was going to get me tenure. At the end, no. Being here I met some great people, both students and colleagues,” Raheem said.

He now plans to move back home to Chicago and possibly open his own counseling clinic. But he still has his eyes set on teaching and said he has applied to several universities. Raheem said his recent experiences at Fresno State have left him with a negative impression and he questioned the university’s concern for students and faculty.

Raheem said, “The stress is kind of still there because of the fact that I’m still angry about the process.”

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