3 claim racial bias at Tennessee Temple University

photo Dr. Steven Echols, President of Tennessee Temple University

Three former Tennessee Temple University employees are suing the school for racial discrimination.

Emmanuel Awotula, Dennis Clark and Jeffrey Davis filed a lawsuit in Hamilton County Circuit Court on Wednesday afternoon claiming that university officials denied them promotion and pay raises because they are black.

The suit names Tennessee Temple University, Dr. Steve Echols and Arnold Arredondo. Echols is Temple's president and Arredondo is described in the suit as vice president of enrollment services and financial aid office supervisor.

The group is asking for lost pay, back pay and benefits. They also want damages for what they say are humiliation, embarrassment and mental distress.

The lawsuit does not mention a specific sum but leaves it to a jury to decide.

According to the lawsuit, Emmanuel Awotula was an assistant soccer coach and head track coach. He said Athletic Director Kendrick Liburd wanted to make him his assistant, but other school officials gave the job to a white man instead.

In February of this year, according to the lawsuit, the school fired Awotula because of budget cuts.

Clark, meanwhile, claims he lost his job as the director of public and community relations even though his bosses said nothing about his work performance. And, according to the lawsuit, Davis lost his job after he called his boss by his first name.

Reached by phone Wednesday evening, Echols said he had not seen the lawsuit.

"Well, obviously we wouldn't want to comment on a case that's pending," Echols said. "But I'll just tell you we certainly would deny any such thing. We have a good representation of minorities on campus. We are very careful not to discriminate in any way."