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Discrimination, Harassment Lawsuit Filed Against TMCC


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

“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.

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”

Bob Conrad
Bob Conradhttp://thisisreno.com
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR and sits on the boards of the Nevada Press Association and Nevada Open Government Coalition.