A former Black graduate student at Utah State University is receiving a $45,000 settlement to resolve a lawsuit he filed against his alma mater earlier this year that alleged his professor continually ignored him in class and drew a racist cartoon caricature of him that was displayed n front of the entire class.
Greg Noel, 32, filed a discrimination lawsuit against Utah State in March after he felt targeted and humiliated by his professor.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Noel was using a computer in a lab in 2018, and the computer shorted out. The outage resulted in his work being deleted, which made Noel frustrated. He admitted to using profanities and pushed a chair. His professor was made aware of his outburst and called a one-on-one meeting.
During the meeting, Noel says the professor accused him of being violent and questioned whether he was abusive to other people and his wife. He also asked Noel, “Was that you going full Haitian?” the suit alleges.
He was the only Black student in the marriage and family therapy program and is of Haitian descent. The school’s student population is 82 percent white and less than 1 percent Black.
After the 2018 incident, Noel said the professor would purposefully ignore him during class discussions. The professor would also continually mention how much power he had over the graduate students and their careers, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Noel reached his breaking point in 2020. He said that his white professor drew a cartoon image that Noel felt was an exaggerated picture of him as “the angry Black man.”
The drawing showed Noel’s well-groomed afro sticking out wildly and taller. His skin tone was darker, his eyebrows were thicker, he had an angry facial expression, and his mustache was much thicker in the picture.
The professor didn’t realize others could see the picture, but he played a pre-recorded training on a screen at the front of the classroom, and the drawing reflected from his computer onto the screen.
Noel’s classmates started a text thread to discuss the picture, and all agreed that it was him depicted in the drawing.
He filed a complaint with the Office of Equity in March 2020 about all of his experiences with the professor. The office found the drawing was inappropriate and Noel was subjected to a hostile environment. The professor then filed an appeal with the Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee at the university. The committee overturned the initial ruling without speaking to Noel.
The 32-year-old then decided to get a lawyer because he felt the school betrayed him and didn’t take his complaints seriously.
“Enough is enough. I felt betrayed by Utah State University. I felt completely betrayed,” said Noel to the Salt Lake Tribune in March when he first filed the lawsuit.
Noel’s settlement, which was approved last week, marks the fourth settlement by the university since 2018. The school has paid out a total of $1 million for those agreements, which are funded by taxpayers. Two of the lawsuits involved cases of sexual harassment and the other was for retaliation, which is why Noel didn’t mention the professor’s name in the lawsuit.