A former professor at the University of Central Florida recently filed a lawsuit against the school, claiming she was fired for refusing to use a textbook that contained offensive racial stereotypes.
According to The Orlando Sentinel, the suit, filed in federal court on Nov. 10, states that Dr. Nancy Rudner Lugo was a tenured professor at the university’s College of Nursing, but the school chose not to renew her contract in 2008.
Rudner Lugo, who is racially mixed with Jewish and Hispanic backgrounds, alleges that she was let go after speaking out against and refusing to use the textbook “Guide to Culturally Competent Health Care.” The suit claims the university ignored her concerns over the book after it received numerous student complaints.
The alleged stereotypical material first appears in the third chapter titled, “People of African American Heritage.” In the material, authors Larry D. Purnell and Betty J. Paulanka say that, “Because significant numbers of African Americans are poor and live in inner-cities, they tend to concentrate their efforts on day-to-day survival.”
The chapter also asserts that African-Americans are usually “high-keyed, animated, confrontational and interpersonal” and said that in the Black community, “being overweight is seen as positive” because “its important to have meat on one’s bones to be able to afford weight loss during times of sickness.”
Material on other ethnic groups appear later in the text when it explains that Japanese wives “care for husbands to a great extent Japanese men are presumed not to be capable of managing day-to-day matters.”
“The book is one of the best-selling publications about nursing cultural trends in the country, and it won the American Journal of Nursing book award in 2005,” Grant Heston, spokesman for UCF told Reuters. “The American Association of Colleges of Nursing includes teaching the book’s ‘Purnell Model for Cultural Competence’ in its tool kit of resources colleges are encouraged to use.”
Paulanka said she believes the statements mostly hold true to new immigrants and their native culture, and said she can see how others who have lived in the U.S. for a long time would take offense to the material.
“I can see it because if I was totally Americanized and I grew up in a very American neighborhood and people were saying this is what I thought, I would find that offensive,” Paulanka told Reuters. “But it’s true if you go back to the native culture.” She added that the material was written by either an expert of the culture or a native of the group.
Purnell, the book’s co-author and a faculty member of the University of Delaware’s nursing department echoed Paulanka’s defense of the material, telling Reuters, “Culture is very sensitive. The statement may be true but that doesn’t mean they like it. It’s true for the group, not for the individual.”
The suit alleges that the university fired Rudner Lugo in retribution, violating state and federal statutes. The former professor, who once earned $70,000 a year while at the institution, seeks lost wages and damages.