Imagine you're a university administrator who has served an evangelical Christian college for two decades.
Your career is flourishing and your dedication apparent as you faithfully serve the university and climb the administration ranks.
One day, the university says you're being considered for a prestigious position: vice president of student development. You're delighted. After all, it's the culmination of 20 years of hard work.
But there's a catch. A few of them, in fact.
First, you have to enroll in a doctoral program. Check.
Next, you must endure a year-long review process to prove you're the right fit for the position. Check.
Finally, for the sake of "diversity" at the evangelical Christian university, the powers that be have made it clear you must promote and hire only minorities – preferably women – and disregard better-qualified candidates because they're white men.
Wait a minute!
I can't discriminate against any highly qualified candidate based on their gender and the color of their skin, you say.
It's not right. It's not Christian. And it's not even legal.
After you repeatedly decline to promote and hire less-qualified candidates for the sake of "diversity," you learn the coveted VP position has been given to a black man in admissions who has: never worked in student development, has no training or experience in the field and never even applied for the slot. In fact, he thought he was actually being fired when the university president offered the job to him in a surprise meeting.
Oh, and you'll lose your office, your current position, your assistant. It's likely the end of any meaningful employment at the university you've served faithfully for nearly half your life.
You're stunned. How did this all happen?
You demand answers: Did the university president promote a black man in an unrelated department, who has zero experience in the field, because of his race?
All you want is an explanation. You desperately try to sort things out with the university and determine why things went so terribly wrong.
Meanwhile, that mortgage lender who was helping you refinance your family's home? He's on the line.
"Sorry, Sir. We can't give you that loan. You're employer tells us you've been terminated."
'Too many white males in leadership roles'
That's essentially how it all went, according to Daniel Paschall, 47, a former dean of students at Biola University in La Mirada, California, one of the most conservative, evangelical, four-year, liberal arts schools in the nation.
Paschall has filed a lawsuit against Biola. He's accusing the school of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, defamation, infliction of emotional distress and other grievances. The complaint also names Biola President Barry Corey and 20 other "Does" as defendants.
WND contacted Biola for comment on this story and received the following response: "We appreciate your inquiry into this matter. Since your questions are in the context of pending litigation, and one which involves personnel matters, Biola cannot respond to the specific questions asked. However, Biola looks forward to having the opportunity to present the facts regarding the allegations made within the parameters of the litigation process."
Paschall's attorney, Geoffrey Chackel, told WND: "Thank you for the inquiry regarding Mr. Paschall. We will not be providing specific comment on the litigation at this time."
Paschall's Biola career began in 1994 when he started working as a resident director. He steadily climbed the ranks at the university over the course of more than 20 years. In 1997, he was associate dean of student affairs and residence life. In 2003, associate dean of student development. By August 2009, dean of students. In 2014, he was promoted to chief student development officer and dean of students, and he began serving on the President's Advisory Council. In 2015, Paschall reported directly to Biola University President Barry Corey.
Corey is a central player in this story. He became Biola's president in 2007 and created the President's Advisory Council, or PACEX, wherein top leaders at Biola would be promoted to vice president.
Corey, as Paschall tells it, came under fire after he declined to promote Irene Neller, a Hispanic woman, to the position of vice president of communications in 2009. Three years later, Neller would be promoted to vice president after, Pachall's complaint states, "significant pressure from the Biola community regarding a 'lack of diversity' on the PACEX team." In August 2013, Neller resigned from her VP position, and Paschall says she complained to Corey about her treatment, noting that he had surrounded himself with a group of white men.
A WND request for comment from Neller was unreturned at the time of this report.
President Corey became deeply concerned about the optics of Neller leaving and he urged her to stay, according to Paschall's filing, and Corey even assured Neller that he wouldn't hire another white man to his advisory council. The filing also states that Corey asked Neller to decline exit interviews so the true reasons for her departure wouldn't be made public.
Neller's departure had a lasting impact on Corey and his concerns about Biola's image, according to the lawsuit, which explains: Corey became "extremely concerned about the personal and professional repercussions and image problems associated with a leadership team 'dominated by white males.' Corey expressed his concerns to those around him, including Paschall, that Biola (and his administration) was experiencing direct pressure, demands, hostility and general unrest over accusations that Biola 'lacked diversity' and had too many white-males in leadership positions."
Under the leadership of President Corey, Biola University began conducting diversity focus groups of students, faculty and staff. In his complaint, Paschall contends, "Corey made it known to Mr. Paschall that Biola had significant 'leadership diversity issues' including too many white males in leadership roles, a problem that had to change according to Corey."
'Promote only ... African-Americans, Latinos and Asians'
In the same year of Neller's resignation in 2013, Paschall says something deeply troubling began happening. He began experiencing constant and significant pressure to "diversify" the Deans Council within the Division of Student Development.
On several occasions, he claims, President Corey and others under his direct supervision told him that the Deans Council had too many "white males." Paschall says he was told "that every effort should be made to hire and promote only minority candidates such as African-Americans, Latinos and Asians – with even more preference given to females within those categories."
According to the legal document, Paschall explained that he recognized "diversity of viewpoints and experiences was important and agreed to make every effort to hire and retain qualified professionals with diverse perspectives, but [he] refused to fire someone based upon their race and could not promote or hire individuals simply because they were a 'minority' candidate."
It was during this time that Paschall claims his supervisor, Vice President of Student Development Chris Grace, said on several occasions that he was "feeling pressure from Barry" because "we have too many white males in upper leadership in student development. … he's (President Corey) bringing it up all the time." Grace purportedly said student development was "very white and needs to change."
The complaint said: "When Mr. Paschall countered by pointing out the Student Development team was, in fact, diverse, Mr. Grace said this wasn't good enough because Corey was pressuring him to achieve more diversity in upper management through the promotion of only minority candidates. Essentially, qualifications of the candidate were a low priority compared to the candidate's race or ethnicity. Chris Grace reluctantly insisted that Mr. Paschall work to comply with Corey's mandates."
A WND request for comment from Grace, who still works at Biola as a professor, was unreturned at the time of this report.
The intense "diversity" push continued, Paschall contends, as he was urged by President Corey, his supervisor and others to find women and employees of color to promote into upper leadership positions. According to the complaint, no such demands were made to find non-minority candidates or simply to search for the most qualified candidates for the positions regardless of race.
In fact, when Paschall would merely suggest a white man for a position, he said, the candidates "would be routinely rejected or outright dismissed and the conversation re-directed to the consideration of only female or minority candidates irrespective of qualifications."
Paschall: Too white and male for VP?
One day in early 2014, Paschall's supervisor, Chris Grace, left his position as vice president of student development. Grace's exit created a vacancy on the president's executive leadership team. And Paschall was seen as a leading candidate for the position.
President Corey promoted Paschall to chief student development officer and executive dean of students, overseeing the Biola Student Development Division. According to the arrangement, Paschall would report to Senior Vice President and Provost David Nystrom for a period of one year. At this point, Paschall would be Grace's replacement – but without the formal title of vice president of student development. To obtain that title, Paschall would need to enroll in a doctoral program.
In pursuit of the coveted VP slot, Paschall then began his doctoral studies at Azusa Pacific University, though, as he explains, it "was a huge commitment in money and time away from his wife and three kids." He said President Corey thanked him for agreeing to enroll in the doctorate in education program and assured him "there is a future for you here" and "I need you here."
So Paschall reported to then-Provost David Nystrom, as agreed, and he asked if there was anything he could do to improve his performance and increase his chances of earning the formal title.
That's when Nystrom purportedly said Paschall had an excellent reputation at Biola and was well liked by President Corey. However, Nystrom reportedly said, Paschall's primary "issue" was that student development "needed to be more diverse" and be "less white and male." In fact, Paschall wasn't immediately promoted to vice president of student development, Nystrom allegedly said, because "you have too many white males in upper leadership in Student Development."
A WND request for comment from Nystrom was unreturned at the time of this report.
President Corey told Paschall on several occasions in 2014 that he had a "bright future" at Biola and only needed to complete his doctorate to advance, the lawsuit says.
But the Biola president also had another concern, according to the legal filing: "Corey also explained in vague terms that he needed to make sure Mr. Paschall’s promotion could not be 'criticized' by others. During one such meeting, Mr. Paschall asked if the fact he was white and male had anything to do with Corey's decision to not promote him immediately to Vice President – Corey responded that it did play a part in his decision. Mr. Paschall thanked Corey for his honesty but noted there was nothing he could do about either of these factors and asked Corey to not give in to political pressure, instead considering him on the merits of his qualifications, character and work performance, not his race or gender. Mr. Paschall generally understood from this, and other conversations, that Corey was concerned about the political implications of promoting a white male to the highest levels of leadership at Biola."
President Corey and others continued to pressure Paschall to "diversify" the Student Development Deans Council because it was "too white and male," according to the complaint. Rather than inquiring about the most qualified candidates for open positions, Paschall contends, President Corey only asked for "employees of color" and women, and he showed "no interest in the performance of white males within the Student Development Department."
Hire someone 'that doesn't look like you'
Meanwhile, Paschall received positive performance reviews while he reported to Provost Nystrom for the year. But then Nystrom left Biola in the summer of 2014.
President Corey reportedly doubled down on his demands that Paschall find minority and female candidates for open positions.
In his legal filing, Paschall explains:
Corey would ask specific questions only about female or minority candidates from a list of names provided by Mr. Paschall. Corey would spend inordinate and unjustified time focusing the discussion only on female or minority candidates even though these candidates clearly lacked the qualifications or experience for advancement at the time. When Mr. Paschall suggested names of highly qualified and excellent performing white males for promotion, Corey would immediately and completely disregard these individuals without any questions about their individual performance or qualifications and immediately steer the discussion back to the female or minority candidates. Corey made it perfectly clear to Mr. Paschall that he only wanted to consider female or minority candidates and that white males were not under consideration.
By early 2015, President Corey reportedly introduced another hurdle in the process for Paschall to obtain the formal title – a year-long "discernment process." In this process, Paschall's peers and subordinates would review his performance. And Paschall would be vetted by a personal "executive" coach named Mark Shepard, who would determine whether to formally recommend Paschall for the position at the end of the discernment process.
According to the legal document, President Corey explained that he would conduct a national search for the "most qualified" candidate for the vice president position if, for some reason, Paschall wasn't promoted to VP after the review. Corey indicated that the main reason for this discernment process would be to obtain Shepard's independent recommendation so the decision to promote Paschall wouldn't be criticized.
Paschall reportedly received glowing reviews during the discernment process, and Shepard told him he was "doing everything right."
By January 2016, Paschall had a meeting with President Corey and Shepard to discuss his progress during the review period. Toward the end of the meeting, Paschall contends, President Corey told him, "Danny, this is going great, you have nothing to worry about, just hang in there with me as we go through this process."
But there was a catch. President Corey and Shepard told Paschall that once he received the VP position, it would be "in his best interest" to hire someone who was not a white male for Paschall's replacement as dean of students, according to the legal filing. That's when Paschall said he resisted, explaining that a current associate dean of students – a white man – was highly qualified for the position. The complaint states: "It was again communicated to Mr. Paschall that it would be in his 'best interest' to assure Corey he would hire someone 'that doesn't look like you' for the position of Dean of Students."
Shepard explained to Paschall that he had passed the year-long discernment process "with flying colors" and President Corey "knows you are the right person for the job," the filing states. However, Shepard also reportedly said President Corey was concerned he would be criticized for promoting another white candidate to the President's Advisory Council.
Wider 'diversity' push: Black Lives Matter crashes 80 universities
It was February 2016 now. And a disturbing trend was sweeping university campuses across America as Paschall was under consideration for the VP position.
At this point, the Black Lives Matter movement was in full swing, with more than 30 chapters across the country. Just four months earlier, angry student protesters at the University of Missouri drew national attention and succeeded in forcing the resignations of their president and chancellor. The protesters accused school officials of mishandling racial matters on campus.
Former University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe had complained of a "significant Ferguson protester" on the Mizzou campus, likely Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson, the Washington Times reported. The day Wolfe resigned, he said, more protesters were set to storm the campus.
Large-scale racial protests also plagued Yale University, Princeton University and other institutions. Black Lives Matter activists targeted more than 80 universities and presented administrators with long lists of demands. Some schools responded by accommodating the angry protesters. Yale promised it would spend $50 million on a five-year faculty diversity initiative. Brown University pledged $100 million on a similar diversity plan.
Meanwhile, Biola University President Corey was busy making WND headlines with his apparent apologies to the black community in February. He shared the following poem with Biola students titled "I Didn't Always See."
In the poem Corey wrote, he expresses regrets for not wincing at the death of Michael Brown, a black man who robbed a store and attacked a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. Corey also expressed sorrow for saying "all lives matter."
As WND Editor Joseph Farah wrote in 2016, Corey lamented how justice wouldn't work out for Trayvon Martin and that he hadn't read enough of Maya Angelou, Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright. He apologized that "the authors on my shelf are mostly men, the poets mostly white."
President Corey also boasted about having radical Cornell West, "my brother," speak at Biola University.
But that was just another twist in Corey's long history of appearances and statements addressing racial diversity at Biola. Corey's poem came several years after a controversy plagued Biola amid complaints that the university's 30-foot "Jesus mural" didn't appear sufficiently diverse and failed to represent minorities. In 2010, the university chose to keep and restore the mural. By 2013, President Corey had issued a letter that appeared to "repent" for his attitude toward minorities when he decided to preserve the Jesus painting. He wrote:
Today when I pass the Jesus mural and strain my neck to look up, I feel more of the sorrow of my brothers and sisters who struggled to move on after my decision. I think more about how much these students – many of them students of color – have overcome in their personal lives and the lives of their forefathers because people of power simply didn’t respect their personhood or understand their journey. In this nation, history reminds us that people of power, and even the Christian community, have been terrifically unjust not only in their blatant discrimination but also when they didn't try to see the world through the eyes of the marginalized and oppressed. We at Biola University have not always done a good job welcoming and celebrating our diversity even while we believe without reservation that the family of God holds us together as sisters and brothers.
At Biola, when intentional discrimination, painful language or passive dismissal of the other has occurred, during my time or prior, I repent and seek forgiveness. I repent for when someone snubbed another's perspective of the Jesus mural as being overly sensitive or trying to grind a racial axe [sic]. The intent of those who find the mural overbearing and repressive is not to make a political point. I repent for when we became defensive and did not listen to the voices in the community who love Biola but were uncomfortable and wished others would know that certain words or images make them feel like they don't belong here. I repent for when we thought that just because we were not actively discriminating we were doing the right thing. I repent for those of us living comfortably in a community while unaware others were struggling to help us see that true community is far richer and broader and more beautiful than we had thought. For these and other offenses and omissions, I repent and seek forgiveness.
Unlike my brothers and sisters of color, I don't know what it's like to see a Jesus that does not look like me on a campus that does not look like me and then ask, "Do I belong here?"
'Love No Matter What'
Just one month after President Corey shared his poem, Biola University hosted a March 23, 2016, conference called "Love No Matter What: Politics, Sex, Race and the Way of the Cross." The university invited several "experts" to discuss issues such as LGBTQ rights, capital punishment and racial issues. One of these speakers was Duke University Divinity School associate professor Christena Cleveland.
Paschall's complaint explains:
During the conference, Ms. Cleveland talked about such things as "white male fear" and white men realizing for the first time the "reality" that they didn't earn what they have. Ms. Cleveland also urged Biola to accept the Black Lives Matter movement, accept that Biola benefits from "white privilege" and urged Biola to "look to the Palestinians for inspiration" in how to get along with others. …
In a follow-up session, wherein Corey and Ms. Cleveland sat together and fielded questions from the audience, Ms. Cleveland told Corey that white men and, in particular, white Christian men in power had to be "good listeners" in order to alleviate "oppression" and to deal with the "gravity" of "what it means to truly listen." …
Ms. Cleveland also told Corey that "evangelical institutions" and Christian higher education are "not ready for reconciliation" because "there is a lot of talk, but the actual divestment of whiteness and maleness" that "needs to take place" has not occurred because nobody is "ready to pay that price." Ms. Cleveland claimed that at least "15 evangelical presidents need to get fired" and that "a lot of martyrdom needs to happen" before there is going to be acceptable change at schools like Biola.
Rather than rebuking Ms. Cleveland for her claim that white males in leadership roles within Christian higher education need to be "martyred," "fired" or "divested from power," Corey sheepishly stated he hoped Ms. Cleveland "wasn't talking about me" and that he was still "thinking about that comment." To make matters worse, Corey even eagerly assured Ms. Cleveland that "progress is being made" and they are "moving in a good direction." Ms. Cleveland responded by saying it would be "kinda cool" if Corey were the first white Christian University president to get fired and assured Corey there are "special crowns in Heaven" for people like him.
Most of the referenced comments in the discussion between Christena Cleveland and President Corey begin after the 38:00 mark:
Swastika: 'Hate and white supremacy' in campus culture
The next month, April 2016, Biola University made national headlines when a drawing resembling a swastika was spotted on a white board above a door in the Blackstone Hall dormitory. Two students, one black and one white, lived in the dorm. Some news reports on the incident failed to mention the white occupant and only focused on the black student living in the dorm room.
The drawing sparked public outcry, and Biola's Black Student Alliance released a scathing statement.
"This isn't an isolated incident but a demonstration of hate and white supremacy that is deeply embedded in our campus student culture," read the statement from the Black Student Alliance. "There have been steps made to increase diversity and inclusion on campus but this event shows that what we are currently doing is not enough."
President Corey responded with his own written statement: "The posting of this symbol is wrong, and we condemn it in the strongest terms. There is no place for this at Biola. To say there are no underlying racial issues on our campus would be naive."
Paschall's complaint references the controversy: "The incident made national news and caused a public outcry, including increased scrutiny of Biola's 'white male' culture and caused the Black Student Association to put forth numerous 'demands' to Corey. Mr. Paschall led Biola's response to this incident and was lauded by Biola for his conduct. However, rather than being the incident that sealed Mr. Paschall's advancement within Biola, Corey's demeanor towards Mr. Paschall completely changed afterwards. Rather than encouraging Mr. Paschall about his 'bright future' with Biola, Corey was now distant and refused to talk about that once bright future."
New provost: 'White evangelicals ... contribute to racial inequalities'
During Paschall's ordeal in 2016, Biola University promoted a woman named Deborah Taylor to the President's Advisory Council. Taylor, who completed a discernment process at the university and took over after Provost Nystrom's departure, was named provost and senior vice president in May 2016. She was now the university's second-ranking official.
While the promotion may have appeared to be business as usual, there was something curious about Taylor's history.
Taylor, who earned a doctorate in educational studies from Claremont Graduate University, had written a dissertation in 2008 titled "Factors that Motivate Faculty in Christian Postsecondary Institutions to Adapt Their Behavior and Pedagogy to Become More Culturally Competent." The dissertation focused on Christian university teaching practices and "increasing their effectiveness with students of color."
In her dissertation's abstract, Taylor, who has been active on Biola University's Diversity Leadership Committee for at least six years, wrote:
While the number of students from ethnically diverse backgrounds is increasing at postsecondary institutions, the professoriate continues to reflect a predominantly White faculty. Therefore, training White faculty members in cultural competency is crucial, but researchers have noted that many White faculty resist such training. Empirical research suggests that White evangelicals often have difficulty recognizing the impact of race on social structures and thus, they unintentionally contribute to racial inequalities.
For her doctoral studies, Taylor had conducted a racial and ethnic diversity related study of six "predominately white" Christian universities in California, including Biola University, in 2007. She interviewed faculty members about their views concerning university commitment to diversity, minority students' experiences and their strategies when teaching students of color.
Some noteworthy snippets from Taylor's dissertation:
- "One of the greatest powers associated with white privilege is the enjoyment of a number of unearned advantages without even recognizing or acknowledging them ... Because white privilege gives White individuals the choice to ignore or engage in racial issues, perceiving its presence and understanding its implications is often difficult for White people ..." (citations on Page 43).
- "First, inaccurate beliefs about diversity and cultural differences are prevalent on university campuses, and confronting these beliefs can be quite uncomfortable ... Second, researchers advised that a cognitive understanding of diversity is not enough; people must experience a real change in their affective attitudes and beliefs in order for diversity initiatives and programs to succeed ... Finally, the literature clearly indicated that changing these attitudes and beliefs among White faculty will require leading them through a process of white identity development and examination of white privilege" (citations on Page 78).
- "Although many of the current racial problems in contemporary society are rooted in painful memories of historical oppression, White evangelicals have difficulty seeing the significance of these historical factors in shaping current diversity issues ... While people of color experience daily reminders of the impact of race on their efforts to succeed in American society, it seems particularly difficult for White Christians to understand the dynamics and implications of race" (citations on Page 83).
- "Due to a surprising level of ignorance regarding structural inequalities, White faculty are prone to see students of color as being individually unprepared, rather than seeing this as a societal issue of inferior school systems within many ethnic communities. As a result, when a predominantly white Christian university makes a commitment to recruiting a more diverse student body, the faculty often view this as lowering the academic standards of the institution" (citations on Page 67).
- "In order for faculty at evangelical Christian institutions to fully embrace both relational and institutional change, this study confirms ... that developing culturally competent faculty must be rooted in scriptural framework for diversity, racial reconciliation, and justice" (citations on Page 238).
Taylor's Twitter history reveals retweets and support for a New York Times post discussing "Obama's impact on black young people," another on "police abuse of black men," yet another that asks, "Is everyone a little bit racist?" and one "article worth reading" on "Why it's so hard for whites to understand Ferguson."
In a video posted to YouTube by Biola University, Taylor recalled the moment her son told her she was "racist" and "God began to reveal [her] ignorance" on racial matters:
In another Biola video, Taylor recalled fond memories of participating in a Black Lives Matter vigil under the university's bell tower in 2015:
As provost, Taylor now implements President Corey's policies and hiring preferences, and Biola's deans all report to her.
'Hard Truths about Race on Campus'
Apparently, at this point, things weren't looking so good for Paschall.
And they were about to get worse. Much worse.
He says he received a June 15, 2016, email from President Corey that stated: "Danny, thanks for the time today. I meant to give you this article, which you have probably already read about diversity on campus. I'm giving this much thought as I think of the future."
The Wall Street Journal opinion article, "Hard Truths about Race on Campus" – which discussed the Black Lives Matter controversies at the University of Missouri and student lists of demands at Yale and Brown – began in this way:
Imagine that you were the president of an American university at the end of 2015, as student protests over racial concerns swept the country, energized by the Black Lives Matter movement. The president of the University of Missouri resigned over controversies there, and other college leaders were confronted on their campuses. Now it's your turn. A hundred students march into your office and present their demands. They give you one week to respond. What should you do?
In his response to President Corey, Paschall says he pointed to part of the Wall Street Journal column that urged administrators to "take the long view and seek hard evidence about what will work" instead of simply "responding to political pressures of the moment."
Paschall claims President Corey never responded to his email.
Instead, Corey later informed Paschall that he would not be promoted to the VP position.
Paschall says he was "shocked," and he asked why he wouldn't be promoted, but President Corey replied, "It's complicated."
Bombshell: In surprise decision, Biola fills VP slot
"Corey went on to vaguely say, among other things, that Mr. Paschall 'has room to grow in maintaining an overall University-wide perspective,'" the legal filing states.
But what exactly did that mean?
President Corey didn't specify, Paschall says. Instead, he said he was reluctant to promote an individual from within the Student Development Division and wanted a "fresh perspective."
And that's when President Corey dropped the bombshell on Paschall: He'd already offered the job to a black man named Andre Stephens who worked in the Biola admissions office – a proposal that reportedly caught Stephens entirely by surprise.
Paschall looked into Stephens' qualifications for the position and was stunned at what he found. According to his complaint, Paschall discovered:
- Stephens hadn't worked a single day in the field of student development.
- Stephens had never been trained in the field of student development.
- President Corey offered the VP position to Stephens in a single meeting and reportedly never asked him questions about student development to learn about his "perspective."
- Before Stephens was offered the VP position, President Corey never informed the man that he was being considered for the slot.
- No one at Biola interviewed Stephens for the position of VP of student development.
- Stephens was not subjected to an internal review, vetting procedure or "discernment process" before he was offered the VP position.
- Stephens never applied for the VP position or submitted a resume.
- According to the complaint, Stephens admitted: "I had no idea I was being considered for this position, it came out of left field. I don't know anything about student development and was shocked when he offered me the job. … I thought he [Corey] wanted to meet so he could fire me because our admissions are down this year."
- Paschall says Biola University never actually conducted a search – internally or externally – for qualified candidates for the VP slot, in violation of university policy.
- Paschall's complaint also states, "The Provost & Senior Vice President (who reports to Corey) was not in favor of Corey's decision to hire Mr. Stephens and questioned the process by which the President used to select the Vice President of Student Development – Corey disregarded this concern."
By June 24, 2016, President Corey's decision to hire Stephens for the VP position was a done deal.
The president announced the decision to university administration in an email. Paschall says Corey's email admitted that Stephens had no idea he was being considered for the slot, and Corey told the Biola administration he "asked Danny [Paschall] to remain in his current position as the dean of students."
In a news announcement posted to Biola's website, President Corey said: "For many years André has been recognized among the emerging executives within this institution. His many interpersonal skills, spiritual depth, collaborative spirit, passion for the marginalized student and the deep respect he commands on campus have convinced me he is well suited for this important executive leadership role."
'Banished' Paschall loses everything: Title, responsibilities, assistant, office
Paschall was dumbfounded. Why was Stephens promoted to the position when he apparently lacked qualifications for it and there was no formal process in the decision to hire him?
Also, he wanted to know: Why was there never an internal or national search for qualified candidates, as discussed?
Paschall said he told President Corey he believed the decision to give the VP position to Stephens was based on race and that the decision was likely illegal.
"Corey never refuted Mr. Paschall's assertion, instead explaining vaguely that 'it's complicated' and 'cultural issues' matter when you are the president of a university," according to the complaint.
Paschall complained to President Corey that Stephens hadn't been subjected to a "discernment process," and he suggested the decision was made because Corey had been pressured to promote a black candidate instead of "another white male."
After that discussion, he contends, President Corey informed him that he could no longer guarantee his employment – not even in his current role as dean of students.
Paschall was then stripped of his title, his responsibilities and his assistant, according to the legal filing.
He even lost his office and was "banished" to "a different office outside of Student Development with no job responsibilities, management role, decision-making authority or purpose.
"Mr. Paschall simply sat in his office with nothing to do," the filing states.
At this point, Paschall complained again to President Corey, telling him the whole affair had taken a serious physical and emotional toll on him. Paschall reportedly suffered from sleeplessness, anxiety, mouth sores and general fear that his career and reputation were being destroyed.
But Paschall said President Corey "essentially cut-off all direct communications … by telling him to discuss the matter with Mr. Stephens because Mr. Stephens, not Corey, would now 'make decisions about your future at Biola.'"
'It sounds like I am being fired'
On Aug. 22, 2016, Paschall took his concerns to Stephens, the man Corey selected for the VP position.
And the meeting was apparently an eye-opening experience.
The complaint recounts the discussion:
Mr. Stephens advised Mr. Paschall that after speaking with Corey, he could no longer guarantee Mr. Paschall's future employment with Biola and offered him "four options" which had been approved by Corey and Michael Pierce, the Chief Financial Officer. The four options included three menial administrative part-time "project jobs" such as (ironically) "Title IX Coordinator," "helping with student care," and "assist the provost with a miscellaneous project" that would last for one year (maximum). The fourth "option" was for Mr. Paschall to "leave Biola now and take what Corey gives you." These options were not intended to be serious and were instead pre-textual, fake and hollow attempts to force Mr. Paschall's resignation.
After being given his "options," Mr. Paschall said "it sounds like I am being fired." Mr. Stephens responded by saying "yes, I see why you feel that is happening."
Amazed, Paschall asked, "How did this all happen?"
That's when Stephens allegedly responded, "I admit this whole thing feels crazy to me as well."
"Mr. Stephens again explained how just a few weeks ago he received an email from Corey asking for a meeting where Mr. Stephens thought he would be fired for poor performance," the legal filing explains. "Mr. Stephens again reiterated he was stunned because he had never talked to Corey (or anybody else) about this job before it was offered to him without even a single interview, question, application or minimal vetting process."
Nonetheless, Paschall inquired about the supposed project job offerings and if they were "just your way of asking me to leave."
"Mr. Stephens admitted the project jobs were not full time and acknowledged they were not part of a serious or meaningful future with Biola, only that 'these are your only options,'" the complaint states. "Mr. Paschall told Mr. Stephens that none of these options were acceptable and that he would need some time to consider the situation."
Paschall says he became physically ill and took paid time off to recover. According to the legal filing, Biola University and Paschall agreed that he would stay on administrative leave as they discussed a resolution.
And then the final blow ...
Meanwhile, Paschall had been in the middle of applying for a loan to refinance his family's home.
As part of the usual home-refinance process, mortgage lenders sought to verify his employment.
But a prospective lender returned with some news that stunned him: Biola University had apparently informed the mortgage lender that Paschall had been "terminated" on Aug. 24, 2016.
For that reason, Paschall's mortgage loan application had been denied.
"Thereafter, Mr. Paschall again notified Biola that the four 'options,' including resignation, were not acceptable," the legal filing states. "Biola unilaterally notified Mr. Paschall that his employment would terminate on Oct. 15, 2016, and that if he wanted to continue receiving a paycheck, he would have to use the remaining accrued and vested balance from his Paid Time Off account. Mr. Paschall's employment was then terminated by Biola on October 15, 2016."
With his career, his health, his finances – indeed, his entire life – turned upside-down by what he sees as his employer's unethical and illegal capitulation to a radical political agenda of reverse discrimination, and having tried at every point to resolve the issue amicably, Paschall had only one option left.
In November 2016, Paschall filed a civil lawsuit in the Orange County Superior Court claiming discrimination and retaliation based on race and gender. He is accusing defendants of unlawful discrimination and retaliation; failure to prevent unlawful discrimination and harassment; harassment; wrongful failure to promote, wrongful demotion, retaliation and wrongful discharge in violation of public policy; violation of Article I Section 8 of the California Constitution; intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligent infliction of emotional distress; retaliation under California Labor Code Section 1102.5; defamation; and breach of implied-in-fact contract.