Three Africana Studies faculty at the University of Massachusetts Boston have filed complaints with a state agency, alleging that UMass Boston has been racially biased, has been hostile toward their department, and has repeatedly intimidated and retaliated against its faculty for calling out structural racism at the school.

“The hostility is not bearable,” said Tony Menelik Van Der Meer, who has worked for the university for over 30 years and filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

The other two full-time Africana Studies faculty, Jemadari Kamara and Keith Jones, also filed complaints. All three professors held a press conference Wednesday on the university’s campus to share their frustrations with the university and skewer what they see as a disingenuous commitment to diversity and equity.

Kamara is the only tenured faculty member. Jones and Van Der Meer were top candidates in searches for two new tenured faculty, but the searches were canceled.

Kamara was removed as the elected department chair and replaced with the interim dean in September 2022. Jones looked back to 2022, when he was presented the Chancellor’s Distinguished Service Award in the spring — only to find out that summer that he was being demoted and his salary would be cut, he recalled.

In addition to these events, the complaints also allege that daily interaction with the administration created a hostile environment. Jones said hostility ramped up after the murder of George Floyd, when the department led a series of conversations and on-campus actions to address structural racism at the school.

“Now [administrators] don't talk to us. ... I used to text and call, have open doors. They hardly acknowledge me in the hallway,” Jones said.

Jones and his colleagues said this is part of a national pattern of retaliation against those leading racial justice initiatives. Current and former Africana Studies students said the lack of investment in Africana Studies is one piece of evidence of the university’s disingenuous commitment to diversity.

MCAD told GBH News, as a matter of policy, it does not confirm nor deny the existence of complaints.

Under MCAD’s processes, the university would be given an opportunity to respond to the allegations. Then, the MCAD would conduct an investigation into whether there was unlawful discrimination. If Van Der Meer, Kamara and Jones are not satisfied with the investigation, they have 90 days to move the complaint to a court of law.

“We intend to do that,” said John Pavlos, the Africana Studies professors’ attorney.

UMass Boston did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Corrected: March 21, 2024
Kamara and Jones had their positions changed in 2022, not Kamara and Van Der Meer, per the professors. This update corrects the changes to positions and timeline, as well as misspellings due to editing errors.