Former University Dean Sues, Claims Loss Of Job Due To Race And Disability

By: Morgan Reitzel, Follow South Jersey Intern

TRENTON, N.J. – Joseph Youngblood II, a former dean of Thomas Edison State University (TESU), filed a lawsuit on January 25 in Superior Court of Mercer County against TESU claiming he was forced out of his job due to the color of his skin and his diabetes disability, a medical condition that affects his vision. 

During Youngblood’s 18 years of employment, he claims in the court papers that he was harassed and discriminated against, the most by Cynthia Baum, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, and Merodie Hancock, the university’s president, according to reports. 

Over the several years that Hancock was made president in 2018, the lawsuit accuses she made inappropriate and offensive comments towards African Americans in an unfavorable manner. 

According to, some of Handcock’s racial comments include, “Black parents don’t love their children,” that “the Black community doesn’t value education,” and the reason black men don’t finish college is “their baby mothers and girlfriends don’t want them to be successful.” Also, Hancock believes that some of her colleagues, “think she is crazy for taking a job in Trenton, but she did not understand why until she opened her window and heard these ‘colorful people using colorful language all day,’” according to the lawsuit.

It has been known allegedly that these comments were said publicly in front of a former vice president at the university. 

Baum, the provost and senior vice president for academic affairs since 2019, has been accused of making hostile comments about the medical devices that Youngblood uses. Due to Youngblood’s medical condition along with another disabled employee, they asked if a midday meeting could be moved, but Baum dismissed their request.

According to, “She questioned why employees thought they get to have a ‘nice, neat lunch hour’ and commented that if their blood sugar is running low, they should drink a Pepsi,” the suit says.

When Youngblood required surgery for a severe eye injury that limited his vision, he was denied a disability accommodation that would allow him to lead and participate in the virtual commencement ceremony for his students during the COVID pandemic. Without the accommodation that Youngblood should have been granted, he was forced to have another dean take over his place, says the lawsuit. Despite bringing his concerns to the human resources department and the university’s board of trustees. 

According to,  “Youngblood claims he was forced to leave the university under ‘a constructive discharge’ due to alleged constant harassment, retaliation, and humiliation, in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.” 

The lawsuit comments that Dean Youngblood has suffered personal hardship, emotional distress, and disruptions within his career and personal life. 

Follow South Jersey provides local journalism which highlights our diverse communities; fosters transparency through robust, localized, and vital reporting that holds leaders and institutions accountable; addresses critical information needs; supports people in navigating civic life; and equips people with the information necessary to partake in effective community engagement. If there is a story or event you think we should cover, please send your tips to with “NEWS” in the subject line.