Women accusing CSU president of discrimination held prominent roles at university

The five women accusing Central State University President Jack Thomas of harassment and discrimination held prominent leadership roles at the university including university spokeswoman, director of admissions and university registrar according to personnel files obtained by the Dayton Daily News.

Only two of the five still work at Central State and both hold demoted roles, the files show.

The Dayton Daily News previously reported that the Ohio Attorney General’s Office on Sept. 8 appointed outside firm, Taft, Stettinius and Hollister, with a $20,000 budget to investigate the women’s allegations. This was at the request of the university board of trustees after trustees received allegations from the women on Aug. 22, records show. The investigation is ongoing.

Two of the women were sent nearly identical letters of demotion on Aug. 2.

“President Thomas has discussed with you the nature of the job and issues concerning your job performance in this role. Unfortunately, you are unable to successfully fulfill the job duties and responsibilities necessary to effectively perform...” both letters read.

David Duwel, attorney for the five women, responded to questions from the Dayton Daily News with a statement: “All five ladies had personal interactions with President Thomas and all five believe he discriminated against them based on their sex and in some cases age. We have been cooperating with the investigators hired by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and are trusting that the process will be fair to all parties. Since the investigation is ongoing we do not want to comment on individual actions or situations.”

Thomas will not comment on the investigation, according to university officials. University officials declined to comment on the investigation saying only its “timeline is set by the external investigator.”

The complaint from Aug. 22 says the five women have been wrongfully demoted, paid unequally and other issues.

“It is aimed at women, primarily African-American women,” the complaint says. “It has resulted in adverse, career limiting, and damaging personnel actions against women such as pay inequities, wrongful demotions, and wrongful terminations. Women in high-level and leadership positions have either resigned, been terminated, and/or demoted since Dr. Thomas’ tenure started in July of 2020.”

The women are:

- Isabelle Cayo-Sanders, former director of admissions and enrollment management with a $65,000 salary. She left the university in March 2021.

- Lena Fields-Arnold, former executive director of communications and public relations, salary unclear. She now works as the Land Grant communications coordinator at the university after an Aug. 2 demotion.

- Felica Harris, former Central State registrar and adjunct professor, salary unclear. She left the university in May 2021.

- Wendy Hayes, former vice president of enrollment and student management, salary $105,000. Also served as chief of staff to the previous university president. She now works as the university liaison for honors and international student affairs.

- Ieesha On’trel Ramsey, former executive director of the student success center, salary $75,000. She resigned in November after an Aug. 2 demotion.

In response to questions from the Dayton Daily News, university attorney Laura Wilson said there are 10 leadership positions that report directly to the CSU president and four are held by women.

Thomas was hired as university president in 2020. His contract commenced in July 2020 and is up for renewal on July 1, 2023. The contract includes pay raises each year to a current base pay of $300,000, plus a housing allowance of $54,000 and an automobile allowance of $12,000.

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