University Of Arizona Hit With $2M Sex Bias Suit By Dean

Posted January 22nd, 2018.

As It Appeared On
Law360

By Vin Gurrieri
Law360, New York (January 22, 2018, 8:11 PM EST) — A former dean at the University of Arizona who specializes in gender studies filed a $2 million collective action Monday alleging the school systematically underpays its female deans and gives preferential treatment to their male counterparts, and that its academic head made sexually demeaning remarks toward women.

Dr. Patricia MacCorquodale filed suit in Arizona federal court against the Arizona Board of Regents — a corporate entity that oversees the state’s public universities — alleging that she and other female deans have been drastically underpaid for years, in violation of the Equal Pay Act.

MacCorquodale also claimed that women are limited from actively participating the Deans’ Council — the committee of all academic deans at the UA. She noted that only four of the school’s 18 deans in the current academic year are women, and that female deans often struggle to get a word in during council meetings, while the input of male deans is frequently solicited by the university’s provost, or chief academic officer.

“Female deans at the UA earn less than male deans and are virtually shut out of participation in the university’s dean’s council,” the complaint said. “The university’s disinterested attitude toward its marked gender-based pay disparities caused these disparities to persist, steadily building to a total disparity of hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.”

MacCorquodale, a tenured professor in UA’s department of gender and women’s studies, is also Dean Emerita of the school’s Honors College, which she led from its creation in 1999 until 2016.

But during her tenure as dean, despite being recognized for her leadership by various superiors, MacCorquodale was “dramatically underpaid” in comparison to her male colleagues.

When she first took the position in 1999 after more than two decades as a professor at the school, MacCorquodale says she was paid about $97,000 — an amount she learned was tens of thousands of dollars less than her male peers when she reviewed salary data in the university library.

That data showed she was the lowest paid among the 18 academic deans, and that the wage gap extended to other female deans, according to the complaint.

MacCorquodale says she raised the issue throughout her tenure as dean to the university’s various provosts during her annual performance reviews, but her concerns were disregarded and any efforts made by administrators to rectify the pay gap fell far short.

In her final academic year as dean, MacCorquodale says she earned just under $163,000 while the average male dean at UA made approximately $320,000 that year.

When she was forced to vacate her role as dean in 2016, MacCorquodale was replaced by a younger and less experienced male interim dean who was offered a full-time salary of $275,000 — an amount that exceeded by more than $100,000 the amount she made in her final academic year, according to the complaint.

Similarly, the male who the university chose to fill the position on a non-interim basis similarly was given a salary of about $70,000 more than MacCorquodale made in her last year, the complaint said.

Moreover, MacCorquodale claimed that Dr. Andrew Comrie, the school’s provost since 2012, retaliated against her when he moved in 2015 to oust her from her dean position a year before her term expired, which was when the parties had purportedly agreed that she would step down.

But besides the actions it took against her, MacCorquodale alleged that pay discrimination is “part of a broader pattern of discrimination against female deans” at the school, adding that female deans have been subjected to sexist comments from Comrie and that they often had their contributions overlooked.

Those comments included telling one female dean that she should wear skirts more often, and another that she had a “Hillary Clinton complex,” according to the complaint, which added that at least one female dean quit “at least in part to escape [his] discriminatory misconduct.”

“The university’s leadership, and Provost Comrie in particular, has perpetuated a culture that marginalizes, demeans, and undervalues women,” MacCorquodale’s complaint said. “The university has discriminated against women by allowing its predominantly male leadership to favor men overtly in pay and subjecting women to differential treatment.”

James E. Richardson of Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP, one of the attorneys for the plaintiff who studied under MacCorquodale as an undergraduate, said in a statement that she “is a tremendous asset not just to the university but to the people of Arizona, and it is disheartening that the university has taken advantage of her unwavering dedication.”

“The university has long been governed by a ‘good old boys’ club’ that keeps women out of academic leadership positions; for those few women who do make it into positions like deanships, that same club ensures that those women are paid less and made to feel devalued and unwanted,” Richardson said.

A representative for the University of Arizona was not immediately available for comment.

The plaintiffs are represented by David Sanford, Andrew Melzer and James E. Richardson of Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP as well as Merle Joy Turchik of Turchik Law Firm PC.

Counsel information for the Arizona Board of Regents was not immediately available.

The case is Patricia MacCorquodale et al. v. Arizona Board of Regents, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. The case number was not immediately available.

–Editing by Kelly Duncan.

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