EEOC FILES FEDERAL GENDER DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT v DU LAW SCHOOL
On the last day of September, the EEOC filed a federal lawsuit against the University of Denver Law School, alleging that the school had discriminated against women faculty in pay. The suit claims the law school violated a plethora of civil rights laws when it knowingly and willfully paid ALL female full professors less than male full professors.
A law school violating the law? The old expression, “the shoemaker’s kids go barefoot,” seems to apply. It appears that Sturm College of Law engaged in discriminatory conduct for decades. It wasn’t until one brave professor, Lucy Marsh, challenged systemic misogyny, whose tentacles of discrimination proved to run deep and wide. Indeed every female full professor at the law school made less than their male counterparts. All ten! According to law school and university officials, there wasn’t one woman full professor who either equaled or surpassed the men.
This gaggle of substandard members of the female sex includes a Fulbright Scholar, an internationally recognized scholar on reproductive justice, a scholar and NIS awardee on sustainability, an international expert and social scientist on gender discrimination, a recipient of the Irish Law Society Life-Time Achievement Award-shared by such other “substandards” as Presidents Clinton, Mary Robinson & Michael Higgins, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Nobel Poet Seamus Heaney and linguist/public intellectual Noam Chomsky. This recitation reflects only four of the ten “aggrieved parties,”and doesn’t even begin to list their accomplishments in teaching, scholarship and service.
What makes this lawsuit fascinating isn’t the claim of deep and abiding sexism; rather it is its timing. We are in the midst of a Presidential campaign where false equivalents are drawn between Clinton and Trump; where the bar is lowered beyond low for the male candidate whilst the female candidate is surrounded by a cacophony of claims of incompetence notable not only for its sexism but utter falsehood.
What is happening to Hillary Clinton is remarkably similar to practices at DU. The ten women faculty members were characterised as below par or substandard by the Dean and Chancellor. Indeed, as a form of self protection or subtrafuge, the Dean released a school wide email where, in an attempt to taint the ten, he reiterated the substandard claim given to the press.
Because systemic sexism, like racism, is so embedded in the University, it passes as normative. Fulbrights, International awards for scholarship and advocacy on behalf of human rights, million dollar grants for sustainability projects and the countless hours working with students and in the community, locally and globally, are not merely dismissed but invisible.
This time it may be different. The EEOC has validated what countless female professors have known-gender discrimination is thriving on University campuses. On the last day of September, however, DU was put on notice that a courageous group of women will not remain invisible.
And, as my mother once said, “Let them pay for their prejudice.”
And pay, they shall.