A white physics professor at Tuskegee University, a historically black school in Alabama, has filed a lawsuit against the institution, claiming that he’s paid a lower salary due to his race and age.
Marshall Burns, who has been with the university for four decades, alleges in the lawsuit that he makes $18,000 to $30,000 less than younger professors.
Burns began teaching at Tuskegee University in 1976 as an assistant professor. In 1978, he became an assistant professor and was promoted to a full professor in 1980. He said he wrote a textbook, helped to increased university funding, and helped to found the school’s physics major.
He says that his current salary of $60,500 is similar to associate professor salaries and that younger full professors are earning between $78,000 and $90,000.
Burns also claims that he’s lost out on additional wages due to racial discrimination. Julian McPhillips, Burns’ lawyer, says he believes that international professors have been favored over him.
Burns believes that if he had been paid at a full professor’s rate at the time of his 1980 promotion, he would have made an additional $400,000 over his career.
“That’s an enormous amount of money to me,” he said. “It could have made a world of difference to me raising a family of four kids.
Burns said that he never left Tuskegee University because he loved teaching and loved his students.
“I’ve had what I consider to be exceptional students,” Burns said. “At Tuskegee, I’ve had classes with students who are go-getters and very smart. That’s what gives me enthusiasm to teach.”
McPhillips said that the lawsuit was a last resort after conversations with the university over the last year have been unsuccessful.
“I’m not a greedy person,” Burns said. “I applaud people who are successful. They’ve earned it. I think I’ve earned it, but I haven’t received it. I have tried and tried and tried everything I know.”