Discrimination Alleged Against Savannah State

September 27, 2012

Marilynn Stacey-Suggs, the former Athletics Director of Savannah State University, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday alleging that the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, which operates SSU, discriminated against her based on her sex and retaliated against her for opposing unlawful discrimination.

Ms. Stacey-Suggs, a long-time employee of SSU, became the University’s first female Athletics Director in January of 2010. Prior to that, she had also been SSU’s first Senior Woman Administrator, an administrative position within the Athletics Department, and served as Interim Athletics Director. Under her leadership, the Athletics Department thrived. As Senior Woman Administrator, she spearheaded SSU’s transition into the Division I level of the NCAA, and during her tenure as Athletics Director, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference – an NCAA Division-I conference made up of twelve historically black colleges and universities – extended provisional membership to SSU as its thirteenth member institution. In addition to these and other achievements, Ms. Stacey-Suggs helped to reduce the budget deficit she inherited by increasing donations while operating her department under budget.

In May of 2011, the Board of Regents appointed Dr. Cheryl Davenport Dozier as the new Interim President of SSU after deciding not to renew the contract of the University’s previous President. One of Dr. Dozier’s first official actions was to hire Damon Evans as a consultant to SSU’s athletics program. Evans had been forced to resign in July of 2010 as the University of Georgia’s Athletic Director following his public arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol while in the company of a 28-year-old woman with whom he was romantically involved, even though he was married to someone else at the time. With Evans now running the athletics program from behind the scenes, Dr. Dozier fired Ms. Stacey-Suggs and replaced her with a less qualified male who would do Evans’s bidding. Despite having fewer qualifications and less Division I experience than Ms. Stacey-Suggs, Sterling Steward, Jr. is being paid approximately $30,000.00 more each year than Ms. Stacey-Suggs had been paid to do the same job.

Shortly after being removed as Athletics Director in July of 2011, SSU re-hired Ms. Stacey-Suggs to serve as Associate Director of Student Development, a newly created position with substantially fewer responsibilities and an annual salary of almost half what she made as Athletics Director. When Ms. Stacey-Suggs complained about the discrimination she had experienced, she was informed for the first time in June of this year that the University considers her position to be only “interim.” SSU has already initiated a search to fill that role with someone else on a non-interim basis.

Ms. Stacey-Suggs has asserted claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and the Equal Pay Act. She is represented by Lee Parks and Regan Keebaugh of the Atlanta law firm Parks, Chesin and Walbert, P.C.. Mr. Parks may be contacted at 404-873-8048 for more information.

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