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Physics Professor Hits Tuskegee University with Discrimination Lawsuit

— July 29, 2019

Tuskegee University is at the center of a discrimination lawsuit filed by physics professor Marshall Burns.

A professor at Tuskegee University recently filed an age discrimination lawsuit against the school over allegations that he’s only paid an “associate professor’s salary despite his promotion to a full professorship 40 years ago.” The professor, Marshall Burns, teaches physics and filed his federal suit on July 19. According to him, “despite a four-decade tenure at Tuskegee, he makes $18,000 to $30,000 less than younger professors.”

The decision to file the suit came after Burns and his lawyer, Julian McPhillips, attempted to settle the matter with Tuskegee University out of court. Unfortunately, those talks failed. When commenting on the matter and his decision to file the suit, Burns said, “I’m not a greedy person. I applaud people who are successful. They’ve earned it. I think I’ve earned it, but I haven’t received it. I have tried and tried and tried everything I know.”

Legal gavel
Legal gavel; image courtesy of succo via Pixabay,

Burns began working for the university back in 1976. New to the job, he started out as an assistant professor and was promoted in 1978 to associate professor before his promotion to full professor in 1980. During that time he “wrote a textbook, lobbied the Legislature for increased university funding and helped found the school’s physics major during his tenure at the school.” However, during that time his salary allegedly remained stagnant compared to other full professors. In fact, his suit alleges his current salary, “$60,500, remains on par with associate professor salaries, while younger full professors are pulling in between $78,000 to $90,000.” As a result, he has allegedly asked for a raise about 12 times.

When asked why he hasn’t left his position at Tuskegee for a higher paying job, Burns said “he loved to teach, and he loved his students, which he called the cream of the crop.” He added, “I’ve had what I consider to be exceptional students. At Tuskegee, I’ve had classes with students who are go-getters and very smart. That’s what gives me enthusiasm to teach.”

Despite his passion for teaching, he has been growing more and more frustrated with the university in recent years, especially after the “school denied his request to take a sabbatical several years ago.” He was planning to take a sabbatical to work on a new textbook, and had “only taken one sabbatical during his decades at the school.”

Additionally, Burns believes if he had been paid at a fair full professor’s rate “at the time of his 1980 promotion, he would have earned an additional $400,000 over his career.” He said, “That’s an enormous amount of money to me. It could have made a world of difference to me raising a family of four kids.”


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