City Desk

Lawsuit: Howard University Exec Used N-Word to Grade Employees

Howard University is already dealing with a budget crunch and rowdy sorority girls. But now, according to a discrimination lawsuit, it could have a new problem: an unusual way of measuring employees' performance. Howard's former top human resources official allegedly had a strange phrase to describe top workers: "H.N.I.C.," or "Head Nigger in Charge."

Jeannette Frett, who worked for James Jones while he was the university's executive vice president for human resources, claims that Jones repeatedly announced in 2011 that he was the H.N.I.C. He also liked to discuss which other Howard employees were H.N.I.C., according to her lawsuit, and was happy to explain the acronym to confused white executives:

When [Jones] later realized that the white Cabinet officers did not know the meaning of “H.N.I.C.,” [Jones] contacted the white Cabinet officers to clarify that “H.N.I.C.” meant “Head Nigger in Charge.”

The acronym has a sinister connotation, according to Frett, who is suing the university and Jones for discrimination and back pay:

Historically, people who have referred to themselves as the “Head Nigger in Charge” have not taken kindly to anyone who they believe is challenging their authority, especially if it is a woman. [Jones'] continued and frequent reference to himself as “H.N.I.C.” was used to emphasize his authority and discourage any challenge to his actions and directives.

A spokeswoman for Howard declined to comment on the lawsuit. Jones, who left the university in November 2012, according to the lawsuit, couldn't be reached for comment.

Photo by Flickr user NCinDC used under a Creative Commons license

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  • Derek

    Come on; everyone knows that Mr. Clark is the the H.N.I.C.

  • http://www.rashiddarden.com Rashid

    ^^^How you spell Joe Clark? He's on time!

  • noodlez

    HE SHOULD BE SUED FOR STILL USING THAT PLAYED OUT 1970-80 PHRASE IN 2013.

    MR JONES THIS IS HOW WE NIGGAS BE USING THE "N WORD" THESE DAYS.

    MAKE A NOTE:
    NIGGA
    BAMMA ASS NIGGA
    PUNK ASS NIGGA
    MY NIGGA
    BITCH ASS NIGGA
    THAT NIGGA IS CRAZY AS A MUTHA FUCKA

  • Southeast Ken

    What foolishness is this?

  • DCPolitics

    This is pure, unadulterated ignorance. The "N-Word" is insulting and inappropriate no matter who uses it. As long as Black people continue to condone it's casual usage, others will continue to think its okay and it's not. I have ancestors that died behind that word and I don't like to hear it coming out of anybody's mouth...

  • Shaun

    This is hilarious.

    As a black man I definitely cringe when I hear ANYONE use that word, but it's definitely worse coming from a nigger's mouth than a regular black person.

    Also - does it matter if he said he was the head "nigga" in charge?

  • http://citypaper sly

    D.C.POLITICS,you are so right.

  • HonestlyThough

    This is hilarious.

  • B

    I expect nothing less from the Mecca. At what point do we say enough is enough. Maybe it is time to remove the trustees and have an independent board run that place. I am tired of my alma mater's operations being an embarrassment.

  • Hnic

    Sounds like he is busy mad he wasn't the HNIC

  • name

    Gray's Trouser Nigga: Noodlez

  • white guy

    I would love it if a certain major slur would disappear . . . . but people seem to keep figuring out new ways to keep it alive! Come on everybody - ixnay on the N-ord-way!

  • Lori Alexis

    I am happy that Howard University is finally being sued for discrimination. I worked there for 10 years and the place is a hotbed of racism, sexism, nepotism, chauvinism, incompetence, abuse and ignorance. Employees have few recourse. In fact, I made an appointment with same damn Jimmy Jones to complain about problems in my own unit. He shunted me off to a consultant who made an appointment to see me, which she never kept. I wonder how I may contact Ms. Frett? Howard university needs REAL Congressional oversight. Get rid of current administration; get rid of the board. Did you know that the current president is a former brother in law of Barry Rand, chair of the board of trustees?

  • Lori Alexis

    The term "Head Nigger in Charge" was/is commonly used at HU. Many rank and file workers used it derisively to refer to the people in charge because that is how they (administrators) behave. At HU, you kiss ass and keep quiet. Otherwise, you are doomed! Howard University provided me with my best experience of life on a plantation. Like what the place stands for in theory but the rhetoric is a bunch of crap. The reality stinks!

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  • IAmNotALiberalDemocrat

    As a Howard University graduate, it this is true, I'm ashamed by this type of behavior and will no longer give money to Howard University.

  • IAmNotALiberalDemocrat

    Correction:

    if this is true

  • Freelancer

    I checked out the complaint that was filed in the DDC. It's crazy. And FYI- Ms. Frett is represented by a local law firm, Edwards and Eubanks, LLC. Sharon Eubanks and Cate Edwards filed the case on her behalf. Here's their website: http://www.edwardseubanks.com.

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