US: University stands by dean accused of anti-lesbian discrimination

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A US university has stood by its women’s college dean who has been accused of an anti-lesbian bias by a former employee.

Rutgers University has stood by Jacquelyn Litt, university and Douglass Residential College dean, an esteemed women’s studies scholar. Both the university and Ms Litt are named in a lawsuit filed by Laura Federico, who was sacked last year from a senior PR role at the school.

The lawsuit by Ms Federico says she lost her job because Litt did not like lesbians, and “felt that women who had men behind them were stronger and better employees.”

“The fact that plaintiff was a lesbian was not a secret and, in fact, plaintiff kept a picture of her wife on her desk,” the complaint continues.

In court papers in response to the accusations, the university denied that Ms Litt harassed Ms Federico, and argues that her inability to meet deadlines was the reason for her dismissal in October 2012.

The Courier News obtained a copy of the lawsuit from Ms Federico after it was moved from State Superior Court in Newark, to the court in New Brunswick, where the university is based.

Ms Federico was given her job in November 2011, which included creating articles and materials for the promotion of the women’s college. Her lawsuit says she was warned by colleagues that Ms Litt “did not respect lesbians”, and that other gay women in the office had previously been forced to resign, transfer out of the department or were sacked.

The response from Rutgers acknowledges that Ms Litt knew Ms Federico was gay, but denied that she had used that information for the basis of her job evaluation. The university said her work required “substantial revisions, changes or reworking”.

The award winning women’s and gender studies professor, previously of the University of Missouri, Iowa State University and Allegheny College was appointed dean in 2010.

The lawsuit was filed in January, months before a controversy surrounding the university’s basketball coach abusing players, attracted international media attention.

Mike Rice, the former basketball coach at Rutgers University was suspended for three games, was fined $50,000 (£33,000), and was made to undergo management classes in December, after being caught on camera subjecting students to homophobic and physical abuse.

Following media attention, Athletic Director Tim Pernetti said Rice would remain in his job, however he has now been fired for his actions in the video. The Athletic Director was also sacked following the dismissal of Rice. University Chief Counsel, John Wolf, also lost his job over the incident.