Suit set to

In the name of truth and equality at the University, one man hopes to defy a decision of Lord himself.
U.S. District Judge Miles Lord looked down at the University in 1980 and signed the Rajender consent decree — a document that forever changed the climate of gender equality on campus.
But Carlson School of Management professor Ian Maitland, in order to rectify what he called “the mother of all sex discrimination suits at the University,” is set to challenge the decree in court, after a settlement meeting last week proved unsuccessful.
Then-University President C. Peter Magrath and the University were forced to do Lord’s bidding and abide by the decree — the result of seven years of legal wrangling over a gender discrimination suit brought by a lecturer in the chemistry department, Shyamala Rajender, who was denied tenure.
Lo, citizens. Hear what thy decree did say: “It is hereby ordered and decreed … The University is permanently enjoined from discriminating against women on the basis of sex.”
Thy administration could no longer discriminate in matters of recruitment, hiring and promotion, salary or the granting of tenure at the University. The decree also forced the school to close the gaps in salary.
Rajender received $100,000 from the settlement — her lawyers got $1.5 million.
But the settlement did not signal the end of the struggle. The decree allowed University women who felt they had been discriminated against to file claims. All told, 324 such claims were filed. The University even hired an attorney — now Deputy General Counsel Bill Donohue — specifically to handle the onslaught of claims.
Eventually, these claims were resolved as well. After a class action suit filed by several female faculty members alleged pervasive sexism on campus, the University settled the case in one fell swoop — to the tune of $3 million — which was distributed to all University female faculty.
But the decree displeased Maitland, even though his wife received some of the settlement. They put the money in a college fund for their kids.
“What had particularly upset me was the settlement had been reached and no one was being held responsible for any discrimination,” Maitland said.
He filed his own suit against the University in January 1993 claiming discrimination based on gender. In his complaint, he said when the University made the payments in the $3 million settlement, he was discriminated against — because he was male.
“So I thought, ‘Well, the University is giving me a perfect case,'” he said. “They were heading in a completely politically correct way and they seemed oblivious to the merits of the case.”
The path was cleared for trial late last year when an appeals court ruled that Maitland did, in fact, have a case.
Maitland’s suit
Washed in white, one thing breaks up Maitland’s office: Sitting in the corner a blazing red sign reads, “Ian Maitland for Congress.” He ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1988, 1990 and 1992.
And in true democratic form, Maitland said he merely wants the truth of the discrimination matter to come out, to “drive a stake” through the lie that the University was a “hotbed of discrimination.”
“When I went before the court, I said, ‘We still haven’t determined the true nature of the charges,'” Maitland said. “And the judge looked at me and said, ‘Mr. Maitland, aren’t you really missing the point? Courts aren’t about finding the truth, they’re about reaching a socially acceptable resolution of disputes.'”
The judge then promptly threw the case out.
In fact, Maitland’s quest has been in and out of the courts since its inception. Finally in August, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Maitland could sue. The University was denied a rehearing and the trial process began.
All the while Maitland was operating as his own counsel, but he may soon secure an attorney to represent him.
On Jan. 13, the two sides met for a settlement hearing. Maitland said he would consider settling if the effects of the original settlements were undone through backpay for all male counterparts and nondiscrimination on the basis of gender.
But, Maitland emphasized, those are just opening bargaining pieces.
Maitland’s case is based on two major themes. First, that pay studies commissioned by each side in the Rajender case were not considered, and second, that the merits of the case were not considered.
Pay studies used by Rajender’s lawyers showed pay differences anywhere from 4.1 percent to 10.3 percent at the University, while the University’s pay study showed no statistical difference between men and women’s salaries.
“Statistical reports draw different conclusions,” Donohue said. “It’s not like the University didn’t defend itself.”
Despite these reports, Maitland contends that the University settled prematurely.
“Not only did the University not agree to the settlement because it was compelled by the facts, but the district court did not approve the settlement based on the merits,” Maitland wrote in a brief to the circuit court.
Julie Sweitzer, the acting director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, said the Rajender trial went through many weeks of testimony.
“All that was missing was an actual court decision,” she said. “There was extensive court evaluation. Consent decrees are only entered into if the judge approves.”
Maitland also claims that the University blindly settled the more than 300 claims filed after the 1980 decree.
Donohue said a significant number of claims were settled, but adds that “we made professional judgments about the cases.”
The Rajender settlement
Besides monetary awards, sweeping changes came to the University when Lord signed the decree. But the settlement may not have occurred.
Eva C. Keuls, professor emeritus of Greek and Latin, said Rajender didn’t have a strong case.
“If it had stayed in the courts, the University probably would have won,” Keuls said. But Rajender’s attorney stuck with statistical data that showed women were clustered at the lower ranks, she said.
It was “immediately recognizable” that women were being discriminated against, she said.
Keuls, who retired in 1997, brought one of the first complaints under the decree. She was an associate professor and struggled to get a full professorship. When she did, she said, she wasn’t paid as much as male professors.
But did the decree help women at the University?
“For the rest of my years at the University, I was not aware of anymore discrimination,” Keuls said.
In fact, the number of women faculty in the University system has increased. Released in 1997, the most recent annual report by the Office of Human Resources reports that 55 percent of professional administrators on campus were women — a number that has grown significantly since the Rajender decree. For example:
In 1979, one year before the decree, the number was less than 27 percent; by 1989, that number had climbed to 54 percent, according to a 1990 Chronicle of Higher Education article.
The same article said that in 1989, 17 percent of tenured professors and 30 percent of tenure track faculty were women; in 1979, the numbers were 14.2 percent and 28.4 percent, respectively.
The 1997 University human resources report said that 24 percent of the faculty — both tenure and tenure track — are women.
While 24 percent may not seem like much, the percentage of women professors hired has grown from 32 percent in 1990 to 42 percent in 1997. Of more than 150 faculty members fired in 1997 — the second highest in the past eight years — only 22 percent were women.
Data representing salary differential between men and women is tougher to come by; one administrator said he “wouldn’t touch that with a 10-foot pole.”
Sweitzer said across-the-board salary data is not available unless one went through the payroll — person-by-person.
“We don’t have an easy way to compare salaries,” Sweitzer said. “Particularly with faculty, you start comparing apples and oranges very quickly, outside of disciplines.”
Maitland doesn’t deny that discrimination was taking place.
“I’m sure that some deserving women got some amount of what they deserved,” Maitland said. “But then, so did a lot of women who were objectively not deserving. And a lot of men who were objectively as deserving as women were denied similar compensation.”