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Discrimination, Harassment Lawsuit Filed Against TMCC

By Bob Conrad
Published: Last Updated on
Image: TMCC

Truckee Meadows Community College administrators were named last week in a federal lawsuit filed against the college for gender discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination. Also named in the suit are Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Thom Reilly and the Nevada Board of Regents.

The suit was filed by Kyle Simmons, a humanities professor who said he received faculty approval for tenure before it was overridden by college President Karin Hilgersom.

Dr. Karin Hilgersom, TMCC President.
Dr. Karin Hilgersom, TMCC President

“I do feel that the behaviors of Karin Hilgersom and Chancellor Thom Reilly have created a hostile work environment akin to what I have recently read about Traci Davis and the WCSD,” Simmons wrote in a statement to ThisisReno. “I also understand why a ballot measure to limit the power of NSHE Board of Regents is needed to rein in the culture of contempt for rules, policies, and laws throughout NSHE management.”

Simmons alleges, through his attorney Michael Langton, that administrators did not follow its own rules and the collective bargaining agreement the college has with its faculty.

“TMCC has no comment,” said college spokesperson Kate Kirkpatrick.

Simmons received in 2017 a recommendation for tenure from a faculty committee after receiving high marks in his evaluations. Simmons said that, after he complained that he was allegedly sexually harassed by two administrators in the Fall of 2017, and his tenure was denied just a few months later.

Humanities instructor Thomas Cardoza, who also has complaints against the college, supported Simmons’ tenure.

“Kyle Simmons was the best tenure track faculty member I have ever worked with. He is a truly superb teacher, he gave excellent service to the college, and he inspired his students with a love of learning,” Cardoza said. “He richly deserved tenure, and his entire tenure committee unanimously recommended him. So did every TMCC administrator right up to Fall 2017.

“Their denial of Dr. Simmons and their subsequent termination of his employment violated multiple legally binding contract provisions, and the excuses TMCC administrators gave for their actions contradict all available records. That is why his committee wrote a unanimous letter of concern to President Karin Hilgersom, urging her to reverse her decision,” Cardoza added. (Read the letter below.)

A letter by Simmons’ tenure committee alleged that Hilgersom’s denial of tenure was “based entirely on hearsay, unsubstantiated or nonexistent complaints, personal opinions, and selective interpretations.”

Simmons said he named the regents in the suit in part because none of them responded to him when he tried to address his concerns directly with NSHE officials.

NSHE Chancellor DR. Thom Reilly.
NSHE Chancellor
Dr. Thom Reilly.

Hilgersom, Cardoza added, never replied.

“The committee sent a copy of that letter to every single Regent. Not one replied. We sent it to Chancellor Thom Reilly. He took no action. It is sad that Dr. Simmons has to go to federal court to get justice from TMCC and NSHE when the facts of this case have been well known for two years. Nevada deserves better from its education system,” Cardoza said.

Cardoza has pending complaints against TMCC, including one with the Nevada Equal Rights Commission. He said he will also file a lawsuit against the college.

Cardoza previously sued TMCC after he was removed from a department chair position. His case was dismissed, as first reported by ThisisReno, but Cardoza said that he and his attorney pulled the case for further review.

At the time, Chancellor Reilly expressed concerns with how TMCC handled Cardoza’s case.

“Specifically, I am troubled that your removal was linked to the letter of reprimand without reference to any other facts demonstrating reasons for your removal,” Reilly wrote in a Nov. 8, 2017 letter to Cardoza. “Nonetheless, I strongly believe that deans and presidents should have discretion in the appointment and removal of department chairs and I believe your removal was generally consistent with the authority vested to the president…”

Cardoza is still at TMCC, and Simmons’ contract there ended early this year. Simmons suit was filed in U.S. District Court.

CORRECTION: The original wording of Simmons’ complaint was incorrect. He said he was retaliated against after reporting the alleged sexual harassment.

Read the lawsuit below

Faculty “letter of concern”



Angie Knoll July 17, 2019 - 10:10 am

Good Lord. A woman grabbed his wrist and attempted to get him to dance with other staff members, according to his allegation. She grabbed his wrist. This constitutes sexual harassment? Shame on this man for demeaning legitimate sexual harassment claims. Based on student comments, I’m sure he’s a fine instructor, but I’m not sure he’s a fine person. Furthermore, what does his Native American heritage have to do with it? Did they attempt to make him perform a cultural dance for their entertainment? No. His imagined racial offense also delegitimizes REAL offenses towards Native people. Please lighten up, Dr. Simmons. Not everything is a personal offense towards you.

Timothy D'Ambrosio July 17, 2019 - 12:37 pm

I saw the actual video. He denied her pleading him to dance. He said no, and waved her away with his hands. Then she grabbed him and attempted to pull him to his feet, after being told no. He had to forcefully pull his hands away.

If he were a woman, and she were a man, you wouldn’t be minimizing.

And the point of the suit is because he asked for it to be addressed, and not only was his complaint ignored, he was fired in what is, veeery clearly, retaliation.

It’s one thing to ignore a persons personal space, it’s another to deny it was an issue, and actively retaliate against that person.

Michelle Schilling July 17, 2019 - 5:58 pm

If you knew Dr.Simmons you would not be saying this, not that it matters though. No one should have to feel uncomfortable in their workplace and have retaliation for it be it a man or a woman. He was 100% fired because they didn’t want to deal with a sexual harassment case. If the woman seriously did not mean any offense then she would have complied with the complaint and apologized, changed her actions, and moved on. Instead he was fired. It is actually good the he has made a lawsuit because many people wouldn’t bother and THAT is what minimizes power to victims. Let’s change it up: phenomenal female tenure track professor gets pressured and forced to dance with her male boss, declines, and is fired soon after filing a complaint with her employer regarding the matter. Would that make you upset?

Heather Webster July 10, 2019 - 1:19 pm

In this paragraph, it’s not made clear what happened. “…after he complained…” ABOUT WHAT? There is never any mention of what he complained about, except the fact that he was denied tenure at a later time.
“Simmons received in 2017 a recommendation for tenure from a faculty committee after receiving high marks in his evaluations. Simmons said that, after he complained, he was sexually harassed by two administrators in the Fall of 2017, and his tenure was denied just a few months later.”

Bob Conrad
Bob Conrad July 10, 2019 - 5:00 pm

Hi Heather, my timeline was off. I’ll make a correction in the article. Simmons complained after being grabbed during a flash mob at the college. He said he was retaliated against after filing the complaint. The links in the article have additional information. I hope this helps.

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