Report: ASU official fired amid investigations over racist photo, sexual harassment

The University found that he sent an altered photo of an employee that was akin to portrayals of 'blackface' and made inappropriate remarks to multiple coworkers

A former assistant director for ASU's online programs was fired amid investigations that found he violated University policies against racial discrimination and sexual harassment, according to findings first reported by 12 News.

Two separate University investigations revealed that Carlos Benjamin, who was fired in July 2018 before the investigations were completed, altered a photo of an African-American colleague in a manner "similar to depictions of 'blackface'" and made inappropriate comments toward a female coworker.

Benjamin worked for ASU for over four years, according to his LinkedIn profile. The page said that he held his most recent University position from April 2016 to July 2018 as assistant director of training at the EdPlus Student Success Center, which is based at the University's Skysong campus in Scottsdale. 

Benjamin was paid over $80,000 in 2017 by ASU, according to a State Press database of University employee salaries sourced from public records.

An ASU spokesperson confirmed that Benjamin was an employee at the Skysong campus and noted that "his duties did not include interacting with students." 

"The University received two complaints about Mr. Benjamin and promptly and thoroughly investigated them, as is our normal process," the spokesperson said. "Both complaints were sustained and he was dismissed in July 2018."

The first investigation, which was completed in August, found that Benjamin emailed an altered photo of a new employee to the employee and his supervisor with an edited mouth that had "bright lipstick-red lips, pearl white teeth, and an oversized smile."

The features created in the edits are widely considered to be representative of blackface, a discriminatory portrayal of African-Americans that dates back to the 1800s. 

The report said that Benjamin's conduct was "unprofessional, offensive and reflected unacceptably poor judgment," according to an azcentral report.

A representative for ASU’s chapter of the NAACP said that the chapter had no comments about the matter, as it was "appropriately" investigated by the University. 

In a separate investigation that was completed in September, Benjamin reportedly discussed his intimate life, a coworker’s body parts, strip clubs and adult film stars while at work or in conversations with other employees. 

The report said that Benjamin made inappropriate comments on various occasions to a new hire while she was receiving training, including that she smelled good and that he had purchased lingerie for his wife.

The investigation found that Benjamin also made additional inappropriate comments toward other female employees and trainees, according to azcentral.

EdPlus manages ASU’s online programs, including ASU Online and the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. Benjamin's LinkedIn page said he served as a "senior member of the student success team" when he was an assistant director of training for EdPlus and worked "closely and collaboratively" with various department leaders.

Attempts to reach Benjamin through social media and an ASU email that was associated with him were unsuccessful.


Reach the reporter at bpietsch@asu.edu and follow @bryan_pietsch on Twitter. 

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