“F**K you, Colonists!” Words I never imagined hearing in a graduate program classroom, yet there it was – premiered by the scorning of “I hate all white people”. Words encouraged by the African American online Social Justice Online Coordinator, Sheri Lewis, PhD at Adler University in Chicago, Illinois. Words that should enrage individuals of every race, ethnicity, and culture. As a self-professed expert, Dr. Lewis cited that all white people exhibit tendencies of white privilege, white supremacy, and suffer from white fragility. Dr. Lewis stated plainly to her students and posted it on the class discussion board, if this was not admitted by her students they would fail regardless of the completion of their assignments and internship.
Throughout the spring and summer of 2020 while the country exploded in racial division and hatred akin to the likes of 1960s, Dr. Lewis ascended on a malicious assault upon Law Enforcement Officers, ‘whites’, President Trump, Trump supporters, and Republicans. She incited students with her unending zealousness that all Law Enforcement Officers relish in exploiting, oppressing, harassing, and killing minorities and continuously berated ‘white people’, President Trump and his supporters. Dr. Lewis wrote to a white student, who wishes to remain anonymous, that she had “conflated discrimination with white fragility and the effects of white supremacy” because this student had the gumption to confront Dr. Lewis about her overgeneralizations, racist, bigoted, and discriminatory remarks.
Adler University officials received numerous complaints filed by graduate students in the masters and doctoral programs regarding Dr. Lewis’ blatantly racist rhetoric and took no action to curtail her behavior or correct these issues. Plus, upon learning of the formal complaints filed against her, Dr. Lewis openly mocked them and the complainants without naming the students, but the message was clear. Afterwards, Adler attempted to placate students with “we’re investigating”.
‘Nonblack’ students stated they experienced severe anxiety before their required attendance in Zoom classroom discussions because they knew they were targeted simply for being ‘white’. They were forced to listen to constant hatred towards ‘all whites’, being blamed for every injustice against blacks and native Americans and ridiculed by their professor and peers to take responsibility for the history of their race. They said the rhetoric was so disturbing their family members could not be present within earshot because it enraged older family members and they did not want to expose younger family members to such blatant racism. Still months later, and with continual complaints to Adler University officials, the school’s lack of action forced many ‘nonblack’ graduate students to withdrawal from their programs.
‘Nonblack’ students discussed the situation with other professors in their programs and learned they were not alone. They have been receiving complaints regarding Dr. Lewis’ rhetoric since the Social Justice Practicum began. A student was informed their professor that Dr. Lewis had made offensive racist comments during a faculty meeting to a white male colleague and decorated veteran that he was a racist white supremist born with a silver spoon and had the world handed to him on a silver platter. Having fought in the Vietnam War, and experiencing the worst of humanity, he and several other professors appalled by her audacity and criticism of a decorated war hero, walked out. Since then, many have begun seeking positions elsewhere.
Frustrated, students filed complaints with the US Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights and the ACLU. Other students intend to file complaints after completing her course in fear they will experience retaliation for doing so while still enrolled in Dr. Lewis’ required Social Justice Practicum course as their peers before them. In short, Adler University is aware of Dr. Lewis’ racism, bigotry, harassment, and discriminatory practices and has taken no actions to correct them. Thus, it has ratified her behavior.
Multiple individual and Civil Lawsuits have been filed since last fall citing violations of Title VI, Title VII, and breach of contract against Adler University and Sheri Lewis, PhD. In response Adler University is continuously making life miserable for their former students citing jurisdictional issues due to the online classroom structure – affectively taking no responsibility for their or Dr. Lewis’ behavior. Instead, they have chosen to nickel and dime their former students to death with attorney fees despite written evidence of emails, Zoom recordings, assignment comments, and discussion posts proof of violations written by Dr. Lewis.
The political and racial turmoil throughout the country has fueled this fire. As a person placed in a position of authority, Dr. Lewis is responsible with shaping the minds of those entrusted to her charge. She has exploited her position to spread her personal agenda of hate, discrimination, bigotry, and unashamed racism. An individual such as she has no place in the academic world or authoritative position amongst young adults.
Students who pay upwards of 45 – 60 thousand dollars for a graduate degree are leaving Adler University. Adler must be held accountable for their inaction and allowing Dr. Lewis to create and maintain a hostile environment inconducive to learning. As an accredited and federally funded institution of higher learning, Adler University has the responsibility to adhere to Federal Policy regarding racism, harassment, and discrimination. Instead, they have only ensured that their ‘nonblack’ students have no voice and proven that social justice is whatever works best for the political times, not what is right for all their students.