Bates head football coach Malik Hall looks at the scoreboard during a 2019 game. Hall, who is no longer with Bates, filed a civil rights lawsuit last week alleging racial discrimination by the school, among other charges. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file

Nine months after Bates College abruptly replaced its first Black football coach, Malik Hall filed a federal civil rights lawsuit last week alleging racial discrimination by the school and accusing it of endangering his family’s health by putting them up in a “mold-infested house.”

The suit said that Bates hired Hall in 2018 “in an apparent attempt to address its tortured and well-documented record of institutional racism,” but his experience wound up instead highlighting issues that have plagued the school for years.

“Almost immediately after he accepted the position,” the suit charges, Bates “abandoned any pretense that it intended to treat Coach Hall fairly and respectfully, and instead subjected him to repeated and severe racial discrimination.”

Hall accused the college of “playing on racist stereotypes” by accusing him of sexual assault and a fabricated claim that he and another coach “had arranged for students to have sex with football recruits.”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Maine, asks a judge to order the well-known liberal arts college in Lewiston to rehire Hall, who lives in Auburn, and to compensate Hall and his family for the damages they suffered during the three-year stint that he served as head football coach for the Bobcats.

The Bates Student, the college’s student newspaper, first reported on the suit and dug up additional details related to it in a story published Friday.


Mary Pols, a spokesperson for Bates, said in a written statement Saturday that “the college has not seen the lawsuit filed by Malik Hall. I can tell you that Bates strongly disagrees with the account of events as described in the Bates Student newspaper.”

The suit names President Clayton Spencer and the trustees of the college as defendants. It was filed by attorney Kelly Hoffman of Portland on behalf of Hall, his wife, Ayesha and children Asah, Kayan and Malik Hall II.

The suit is merely the latest example of the college’s struggles with racial issues, including the 2019 departure of its national championship-winning squash coach, Pat Cosquer, an African American who said he could no longer put up with what he viewed as a hostile environment.

“This is a white place,” Cosquer said at the time.

Bates has readily admitted it can do better on racial issues. However, its rhetoric has typically been well ahead of what Black students and faculty say they experience at the college.

The college’s former director of security and campus safety, a Haitian-born immigrant named Douglass Morency who grew up in Virginia and went into police work after graduating from Howard University, said in 2020 that he left the job because he felt battered by a college administration.


He said at the time that he saw a pattern of Bates letting down black professionals lured to campus by the school’s long history of social justice leadership but failing to live up to the ideals it professes.

“They bring in Black faces,” Morency said at the time, and then stifle or ignore them, creating “a revolving door of Black employees.”

“It’s awful, man. You shouldn’t treat people that way,” said Morency.

The college is currently searching for a new vice president for equity and inclusion after most of that office’s staff, including the former vice president, Noelle Chaddock, departed last year.

Last fall, Spencer told the Bates community in an open letter that “the work of equity, inclusion, and antiracism is central to achieving our core mission of providing an education that is meant to transform lives.”

“No student can learn and grow and realize their full potential unless they are seen and valued, and in turn feel that they belong at Bates and Bates belongs to them,” she said. “This only happens if we are willing to question, and modify, our inherited norms in what and how we teach, in how we see and portray ourselves as an institution, and in how we organize and support all aspects of college life.”


Accused of sexual assault

One Friday in September 2019, the day before an away game at Amherst College in Massachusetts, Bates’ Title IX officer, Gwen Lexow, called Hall into a meeting, according to the suit, and informed him that he had been accused of sexual assault, but declined to provide any details.

Hall told Lexow that “as a Black Football Coach at a predominantly white school, any accusation of sexual impropriety on his part — even one as nebulous and unfounded as the one at issue — carried the likelihood of both ruining his career and placing a stigma on his family, friends, and the student-athletes that he coached,” the suit said.

“This was especially so, given the historical and present-day difficulties for any Black person in securing a high-level football coaching position, and in the context of the racist tropes built into the American consciousness that Black men are somehow prone to engaging in sexual assault, particularly against white women,” the suit said.

Hall’s suit said the coach recognizes that while “many of the players that have played for him look like him,” football across the country “remains controlled and coached by white men.” He recognized both the rarity and value of the job he held.

One consequence, the suit said, is that Hall had “always been scrupulous and hypervigilant in his behavior with students,” partly because Black men risk facing false allegations as a matter of course.

Told by Lexow of the accusation, Hall felt crushed that a nightmare scenario for him had come true despite his efforts.


After leaving the session with Lexow, the suit said, Hall felt so distraught that he stood in a staircase and began crying, something that had only happened a few times in his life.

Hall “could not understand why he was being accused or who could be doing the accusing,” the suit said.

He never found out.

Accused of arranging sex for recruits

Three months later, Lexow again notified Hall of a potential problem: He and an assistant coach had been accused “of soliciting students to have sex with football players” they were trying to lure to Bates, according to the suit.

Both Hall and his offensive coordinator, Custavious Patterson, denied the charge.

The suit said that neither coach was involved in the tours offered to recruits, which were run by the Office of Intercultural Education under the direction of a Black woman, Charlene Holmes. Her office, the suit said, chose which students would conduct the tours, not the coaches.


“The allegations against Coach Hall and Coach Patterson were and are untrue and drew upon centuries of negative tropes surrounding Black men and their attempts to exist in white communities,” the suit said.

It also said that “the ease with which Bates repeatedly allowed such racially-charged allegations to be made compelled and forced Coach Hall into a state of constantly defending himself layered over a new emotional state of pronounced anxiety, fear, and depression.”

Forced to live in a moldy house?

When Hall signed a contract in June 2018 to become the new head football coach, one part of the deal was that Bates would provide his family with housing.

Former Bates head football coach Malik Hall alleges in a lawsuit that the home the college provided for his family, located at 52 Ware St. in Lewiston, was infested with mold that endangered his family. City of Lewiston Assessor

They were offered two choices, one of them too small, so he wound up with staying at a former bed and breakfast that Bates owned at 52 Ware St., one of many properties the college has purchased in the neighborhood surrounding its campus.

According to the lawsuit, “in the days and weeks after Coach Hall and his family moved into the Ware Street House, it was obvious that the house needed significant work to make it an acceptable place to live from a habitability perspective, among others.”

Hall “learned that the college had previously — and unsuccessfully — attempted to remediate black mold in the house,” the suit alleges, adding that in 2019 Hall gave the college photographs showing the “widespread infiltration” of mold in the home’s basement.


The suit claims Hall told the college “it was illegal and a violation of federal and Maine law to knowingly place his family in a mold-infested facility” and asked for help. His entire family got medical attention to see if the mold was affecting their health, the suit says.

“To date, Coach Hall’s three children have experienced illness as a result of the home’s black mold —including difficulty breathing and nose bleeds — and will continue to suffer effects from the black mold into the future,” the suit said.

Other allegations

The suit cites several other incidents in making a case that Bates discriminated against Hall, defamed him, retaliated against him for blowing the whistle on problems and caused health problems for his entire family.

In addition to seeking financial compensation and for Hall to get his job back, the suit asked the court to order Bates to cease “engaging in any employment practices that discriminate against persons on the basis of race” and to “mail a letter to all employees notifying them of the verdict against them” and to tell them Bates “will not tolerate race discrimination in the future.”

Hall has also filed discrimination complaints with the Maine Human Rights Commission and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a standard step in cases like this. Neither agency appears to have acted on the complaints.

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