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Archive for Sunday, September 29, 2002

Former KU faculty plan to appeal lawsuits

September 29, 2002

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Two former Kansas University faculty members plan to appeal recent court decisions that dismissed their discrimination lawsuits against the university.

Cynthia Annett and Karin Pagel Meiners, both former KU assistant professors, claimed in separate lawsuits that the university had retaliated against them in denying them promotions and tenure.

Annett said Topeka attorney Alan Johnson, who represents both her and Pagel Meiners, was working on appeals. Johnson could not be reached for comment.

"We're very disappointed in this decision because we think that right now what we're seeing is just an outright attack on equal opportunity at all levels, including, apparently, in the courts," said Annett, former assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

Barbara McCloud, associate general counsel and lead defense counsel for KU in both cases, said the decisions reflected well on the university.

"It demonstrates that the university and its administrators are dedicated to fair and equal treatment of faculty and staff," she said.

In Annett's case, Judge Julie A. Robinson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas rejected Annett's claim that the university's decisions not to hire her as assistant director of its Equal Opportunity Office, not to give her adjunct faculty status, and not to grant her principal investigator status were made in retaliation against a previous gender discrimination lawsuit she filed after being denied tenure. A jury ruled in favor of the university in that lawsuit.

Pagel Meiner's lawsuit alleged that the university retaliated against her and denied her due process through various actions, including denying her tenure in the Department of Germanic languages and literature.

In a decision filed Sept. 16, U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn H. Vratil rejected Pagel Meiner's claim, ruling she had failed to prove a case of retaliation against the university.

Pagel Meiners said she was stunned by the decision.

"It is incomprehensible to me that the American court system could tolerate such a pattern of unjust practices by the university," she said. "I feel as if I'm in some sort of surreal, Kafka-esque world, and I am only now realizing and understanding the level of damage to my health, career and family. It is catastrophic."

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