The turmoil at the Southern Poverty Law Center has not subsided. Today, the organization’s president, Richard Cohen, announced his resignation after 33 years with the group. From the LA Times:
The president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Richard Cohen, announced his resignation Friday, the latest in a series of high-profile departures at the anti-hate organization amid allegations of misconduct and workplace discrimination of female and black employees.
…His departure comes one week after he fired his longtime partner, Morris Dees — the center’s co-founder, chief trial counsel and its biggest public face for nearly half a century — for undisclosed misconduct…
“Whatever problems exist at the SPLC happened on my watch, so I take responsibility for them,” Cohen wrote, while asking the staff to avoid jumping to conclusions before the board completes an internal review of the Montgomery, Ala., organization’s work culture.
Cohen had apparently requested to begin the search for a replacement last October but that was expedited this week after Dees was fired. So what is actually going on? There was one report last week that Morris Dees had been accused of multiple instances of sexual harassment or misconduct, but details of those allegations have not appeared anywhere. At the same time, several reports suggested there were problems involving the treatment of African-American members of the staff which had existed for decades. Today the Montgomery Advertiser has a bit of an inside look from four employees who spoke about the situation anonymously:
All four employees requested anonymity due to the center’s sterling reputation in the progressive nonprofit and political realms, where all continue to work.
Several of the employees described high staff turnover and a “toxic” workplace riddled with conflicting priorities and inter-office politics.
All four independently spoke of racial equity concerns in senior leadership, describing a disproportionate amount of people of color serving in entry-level administrative positions compared to the rest of the workforce. Two former employees said they were disconcerted by what they viewed as sluggish responses to high-profile cases of deadly police force in recent years, as well as prioritization of marketing and fundraising over on-the-ground civil rights work.
It’s all pretty vague. I could see this same description happening one of two ways. It could be that Dees or Cohen (or both) were behaving badly in the office. It could also be that the SJWs working at the SPLC are staging the equivalent of a sit-in in the college president’s office to make demands. If it’s the former, I hope the facts come out. If the latter, I hope the SJWs eat the organization alive (as they always want to do).
The statement issued by Cohen the day Dees was fired said that an outside expert would be brought in to assess the workplace culture across the entire organization. This week the group brought in Michelle Obama’s former Chief of Staff who is a lawyer specializing in “workplace cultural compliance.”
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