A Nassau Community College minority organization says a trustee must relinquish his leadership role in the search for the school's next president after it was revealed he sent an email referring to an African-American member of their group as "a thug" and a female member as "the youngest looking and very pretty."
College officials said the email, made public at a board of trustees meeting Thursday night, has been sent to the school's affirmative action officer and lawyers for review.
"As of now, we recognize the concerns of everyone," Geoffrey Prime, the board's chairman, said Friday. "But we're not going to make any rash decisions. This is obviously unprecedented, and I don't know at this point what kind of action we're going to take."
Copies of the email, written by trustee Anthony Cornachio, who is charged with appointing members to the presidential selection committee, were circulated at the board meeting by members of ALANA, which stands for African, Latino, Asian and Native American Alliance.
The message, dated March 22, was sent from Cornachio's personal email account to eight college trustees.
"I find the email disturbing, sexist, hurtful, demeaning and it speaks to the real issue I am trying to address as an African-American and also as a woman," said Anissa Moore, president of ALANA, to whom Cornachio referred in the email.
Moore said Friday she and the group's executive board want Cornachio to step down from leading the 15-member presidential selection committee.
A printed copy of the email was anonymously placed in the mailbox of ALANA executive board member Marilyn Monroe.
The group, which represents minority staff and faculty, has for two months lobbied trustees to get a seat on the presidential search committee, saying it lacks adequate racial diversity.
After Thursday night's meeting, Cornachio, who is white, said he did not intend for the email to be public or for the correspondence to go beyond the intended recipients.
"Of course it wasn't meant that way," Cornachio said, referring to others' allegations that the email contained offensive racial and sexist language.
In the message, Cornachio writes about Sylvester Wise, a sociology professor and a male African-American ALANA member: "that tall black guy is a thug and he has an agenda. Not known to be a nice person."
Wise said of Cornachio: "He needs to be removed from the search committee. I don't think he can be fair."
Cornachio said Friday he sometimes has used the term "thug" to describe white people he thought were bullies, including the college's former president, Donald Astrab.
NCC trustees said they aim to select a new college president by June. Acting president Kenneth Saunders, who is a candidate, has led the school since August, when Astrab was removed after 30 months in the job.
There are 40 applicants for the president's post. Trustees would not disclose the ethnicity or gender of the candidates, citing confidentiality rules.
The selection committee comprises seven white women, five white men, two black men and one Asian man.