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Black College Instructor Claims She Was Punished For Discussing Racism

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A black community college instructor in Minneapolis claims she was formally reprimanded over a discussion on racism in one of her classes.

Shannon Gibney, an English faculty member at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, told MCTC student newspaper City College News in a video interview that three white students filed a complaint against her with the school after a discussion on structural racism in one of her communications classes.

In the interview, which was posted by the college newspaper to YouTube, Gibney says a white student interrupted her lesson to ask "Why do we have to talk about this in every class?" Another white male in the class then chimed in, Gibney told the student paper, saying he didn't understand either. "It's like people are trying to say that white men are always the villains, the bad guys. Why do we have to say this?" the student asked, according to Gibney.

Gibney said that when she told the students that they could file a complaint with the college's legal affairs department if they were so unhappy with the discussion, they took her up on her offer. That led to an official reprimand from the school in early November, she claims.

Gibney told The Huffington Post she could not comment further because the case is in appeal.

MCTC would not confirm that Gibney had been reprimanded after a student complaint, citing privacy laws. The school did, however, deny reprimanding her for leading a discussion on structural racism.

"The college has taken no steps to prohibit faculty members from teaching about racism, including structural racism," college spokeswoman Dawn Skelly told HuffPost. "MCTC has never disciplined a faculty member for teaching or discussing structural racism. Conversations about race, class and power are important and regular parts of many classes at MCTC and have been for years."

City College News reported that after Gibney spoke with the student newspaper, she was told she risks further punishment for violating the unnamed white male students' privacy.

MCTC noted in a statement that nearly one in four of the school's employees are minorities, and that "of the eight new full-time faculty hires the college made for fall 2012, six are people of color."

More than half of the 13,874 students enrolled at MCTC in fall 2013 are persons of color, according to the college.

The story was first reported last month by City College News, but was picked up by outlets like the Raw Story and Salon on Monday.

Gibney is not filing a lawsuit against the school, but is submitting a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging workplace discrimination at MCTC, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

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