Posted July 24th, 2019.
By Hailey Konnath
Law360 (July 24, 2019, 10:23 PM EDT) — Three former University of Arizona deans have settled a $2 million gender bias suit alleging the school systematically underpays its female deans and gives preferential treatment to their male counterparts, the deans and the university told an Arizona federal court Wednesday.
Former Honors College Dean Patricia MacCorquodale hit the Arizona Board of Regents with the suit early last year, claiming the school’s leadership perpetuated a culture that “marginalizes, demeans and undervalues women,” and that its provost had a habit of making sexist comments to female deans.
On Wednesday, the board of regents, MacCorquodale and two other former deans — former architecture college Dean Janice Cervelli and former College of Nursing Dean Joan Shaver — filed a notice of settlement and joint stipulation of dismissal, though they didn’t elaborate on what the settlement entailed.
MacCorquodale, Cervelli, Shaver and the board also issued a joint statement Wednesday, saying they are “pleased that this matter has been mutually resolved.”
“Plaintiffs brought this action to highlight the importance of gender equity and diverse leadership in higher education, and both parties agree and reaffirm the continuing importance of these issues,” they said.
MacCorquodale, initially the only named plaintiff in the action, claimed the University of Arizona’s female deans had been drastically underpaid for years, in violation of the Equal Pay Act. She also alleged that women are limited from actively participating in the Deans’ Council, a committee of all academic deans at the university. Only four of the school’s 18 deans were women in January 2018, she added.
She said she raised the issue throughout her time as a dean, but the university’s provosts regularly disregarded her concerns.
On top of that, MacCorquodale alleged provost Dr. Andrew Comrie had made sexist comments to female deans, including telling one she should wear skirts more often and another that she had a “Hillary Clinton complex,” according to the complaint.
MacCorquodale left her post in 2016 and is a tenured professor in the university’s department of gender and women’s studies, according to the operative complaint. Shaver was a dean until 2018, and is now a professor of nursing, per the university.
Cervelli left the university to become president of Saint Mary’s College in Indiana, she said in the complaint. However, she abruptly resigned from that post earlier this year and has since sued the institution in Indiana state court, alleging she was forced out and that the school owes her money.
The University of Arizona said in Wednesday’s statement that it “recognizes the plaintiffs’ contributions to their respective colleges.”
The university added that it “wishes Patricia MacCorquodale and Joan Shaver well as they continue their academic pursuits at the university, and wishes Janice Cervelli a continued fruitful career as well.”
The deans and the university declined to comment beyond the joint statement Wednesday.
The deans are represented by Merle Joy Turchik of Turchik Law Firm PC, and Andrew Melzer and David Sanford of Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP.
The board of regents is represented by Robert K. Jones, Monica M. Ryden and Victoria Woodin Chavey of Jackson Lewis PC.
The case is MacCorquodale v. Arizona Board of Regents, case number 4:18-cv-00028, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.
–Additional reporting by Vin Gurrieri. Editing by Breda Lund.