A former professor at University of Central Florida in Orlando, Vibert White, has sued the university, claiming he suffered discrimination — and ultimately was forced to resign in 2015 — because he is black and Muslim, and because he proposed recruiting more black and Muslim students to the school.
UCF has an Islamic Studies program, which it launched in 2011, and a Middle East Studies program. But White accuses the university of rebuffing him when he tried years earlier to get that program started.
In response to the lawsuit, UCF spokesman Chad Binette pointed out the two academic programs that the school has embraced and that White resigned.
"We believe his claims have no merit," Binette said.
The suit says White "received a number of threats that were hateful, racist, and anti-religious attacking his free speech and teaching in person and through e-mail." White alleges in the suit that the university ignored his requests for help with the problem. He also claims retaliation after he complained.
White's attorneys are from the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR. Attempts to reach CAIR regarding the lawsuit were not successful.
White says he is African-American and of Afro-Latino descent, and a "devout Islamic scholar." He claims in the lawsuit that Fernandez called him a "militant extremist."
White's lawsuit alleges continual attacks against him and claims they were witnessed, but it mentions few specific incidents.
The lawsuit says UCF suspended White in 2014 for sending students to an event, but doesn't say what event. The suit alleges the event was directly related to coursework. Another threatened suspension in 2013 had to do with White allowing students to take home a final exam, but the suit says that suspension was called off after White got attorneys involved.
White was known for researching the Nation of Islam's history in Central Florida — an African-American movement that famed boxer Muhammad Ali joined.
White previously told the Sentinel that Orlando's version of the Islamic movement was not violent and believed blacks shouldn't smoke or drink or have extra-marital sex, and that they should live separate and independent from white people.
White is also naming university administrators as defendants in the lawsuit, individually and in their roles at the school: John Sacher, chairman of the History Department; Jose Fernandez, dean of the College of Arts & Humanities; and Nancy Stanlick, associate dean and director of research in the College of Arts & Humanities.