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Former professor sues Miami claiming racial discrimination

A former assistant professor is suing Miami University for discrimination after she was denied tenure and access to laboratory equipment. 

Natosha Finley, a black woman, was hired in 2009 through a diversity initiative. Finley specialized in structural biology, and the lawsuit stated that her use of a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer — a machine used to measure the magnetic field around atomic nuclei — was necessary to complete her studies. 

The lawsuit alleges that Miami denied Finley the ability to write scholarly articles to meet “shifting” requirements for promotion and tenure. 

According to court documents, two white colleagues were required to have one or three articles on which they were the lead author published for a tenure recommendation. Finley was required to have five. 

Co-authored articles counted toward tenure for the white colleagues but not for Finley. 

Finley said that in order for her to write these articles, she needed access to the spectrometer to complete her research. Access to this machine was denied to her, yet given to colleagues and others outside of the university. 

It’s unclear why Finley was denied access to the spectrometer. 

Finley said in the lawsuit that she wasn’t given an adequate amount of time but that she did complete the necessary number of articles to receive tenure. 

She was denied tenure in Dec. 2017. She appealed the decision but was again denied tenure in June 2018. 

Finley eventually filed discrimination with the Office of Equal Opportunity. 

She seeks more than $5 million in damages for front pay, back pay, emotional distress and attorney costs. Finley requests that she be returned to her position and given tenure. 

"Miami does not comment on pending litigation but denies it acted unlawfully," said Director of University News and Communications Claire Wagner. "Miami follows well-established tenure and promotion procedures that include reviews by a department faculty committee, the department chair and the dean."

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The two white professors mentioned in the lawsuit and Luis Actis, chair of the microbiology department, said they cannot comment on pending litigation. Finley declined to comment. 

Junior Julianna DiMarco, a former student of Finley’s, said she was well-liked as a teacher. 

“She was super sweet during her lectures, and you could tell she really cared about the subject matter … She was a very likable person. She was definitely willing to help.”

A former version of this article incorrectly identified Finley as an assistant teaching professor. She was an assistant professor. This article was also updated to include information from Claire Wagner, Luis Actis and Julianna DiMarco.