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Archive for Tuesday, March 2, 1999

COUPLE ALLEGES DISCRIMINATION AT KU

March 2, 1999

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— Tenure and promotion cases involving two KU faculty members resulted in the filing of a race- and sex-discrimination lawsuit in federal court.

Two faculty members at Kansas University jointly filed a federal lawsuit alleging sex and race discrimination by the university and a department chairman.

Cynthia Annett and Raymond Pierotti, who are married and members of the department of ecology and evolutionary biology, claim KU and department chairman Thomas Taylor engaged in sex discrimination against Annett by rejecting her bid for tenure and promotion.

The suit also claims Pierotti, who identified himself as an American Indian, was victim of race discrimination at the hands of KU and Taylor.

The suit was filed in late February in U.S. District Court and seeks in excess of $400,000 for violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Tom Hutton, director of the KU office of university relations, said Monday that university officials disputed allegations made in the suit.

"However, because it is a personnel matter, I cannot discuss details of the case," he said. "Those details will be the subject of a university response in the forum selected by the complainants -- the courts."

Taylor said he didn't want to comment on the lawsuit.

Annett said she and her husband didn't care about winning a big financial judgment in court. Their interest is protecting university women and minorities from discrimination, she said.

"What we want is for the university to address this issue, put in administrative protections, seriously look at what's been going on -- and not just in our department, where there has been a long history of abuse," she said.

Annett, a white female assistant professor denied promotion and tenure in 1998, claimed sex discrimination after the department voted to recommend that two males be granted tenure. Annett asserted she had equal or greater academic qualifications than the men but was denied advancement because of her gender.

Annett also alleged Taylor made "unfounded" charges of academic misconduct against her.

Meanwhile, Annett's unusual "self-nomination" bid for tenure is pending before the university. If this second attempt at tenure fails, her appointment at KU will be terminated in May.

Pierotti, an associate professor awarded tenure at KU in 1998, claimed discrimination because of race. He pointed to decisions by Taylor, who is white, to revoke Pierotti's control of lab and office space, to remove Pierotti as head of the department's minority affairs committee, and to denigrate Pierotti's award for mentoring minority students.

Annett and Pierotti have been on the KU faculty since 1992. Annett said the trouble began two years ago when Taylor proposed to shift emphasis of the department's graduate programs. Pierotti and Annett were convinced the change would reduce the number of minority students in the department.

"We'd like to suggest that there's a pattern of retaliation for activities on behalf of minorities," Annett said.

Annett and Pierotti said they turned down job offers elsewhere to continue battling the university.

"Discomfort shouldn't discourage you from doing what is right," Annett said. "I very firmly believe that."

-- Tim Carpenter's phone message number is 832-7155. His e-mail address is tcarpenter@ljworld.com.

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