GC suit might head to court

Jim Martyka

A former University employee is suing the University and several officials whom he alleges fired him after he made suggestions about improving the integration and success of minority students in General College.
David McGough, former Coordinator of Student Services in General College, has filed suit against the University, General College Dean David Taylor, Associate Dean Marjorie Cowmeadow and University Office of Admissions Director Wayne Sigler.
Representatives for McGough and the defendants are scheduled to meet today with a mediator. If an agreement is not reached, the case could end up in district court.
“He had been chomping at their ears on how to recruit more and better people of color to bring the University’s number (of minority students who graduate) close to that of other universities,” said Minneapolis attorney Brian Sattler, who is representing McGough. “And he was fired because Taylor didn’t agree with his ideas.”
For years, General College has recruited underprepared students who otherwise would not qualify for admission to the University. Statistics show that more than 30 percent of the college’s students are racial minorities.
Those students who enroll in General College, however, graduate at a lower rate than students from other University colleges. This discrepancy led in large part to an administrative proposal to close the college last spring.
McGough, who filed the complaint last June, said he brought several ideas on how to recruit and graduate more minorities to Taylor. But he claims that Taylor would not listen to his suggestions and that he was subsequently fired.
Moreover, McGough said Taylor responded to his suggestions by saying he didn’t want to “ghettoize” the school. McGough said he thinks Taylor meant that he didn’t want to overcrowd the college with more people who weren’t graduating.
Taylor, who was contacted Tuesday, denies ever making such a statement and dismissed McGough’s allegations.
“We both agreed that there was a need to recruit more minority students,” said Taylor. “We did set up a strategy for recruiting that has worked and continues to work.”
Taylor also said McGough was downsized because of a change in procedures to consolidate all admissions activities into the University’s Office of Admissions. In a letter to the General College community last summer, Taylor explains that this change caused some downsizing, including the elimination of the director position, which McGough held.
“He wanted to do it (recruiting) his way and central administration didn’t agree,” Taylor said Tuesday. “He couldn’t convince them his position was necessary. This is the heart of the dispute.”
McGough claims age and gender discrimination in his suit as well.
“He is over 60 and feels like he was just dumped,” Sattler said. “Also, a look at other director’s salaries shows that he was making considerably less than women in similar positions.”
Sattler also said his client, who has cancer, has suffered from a great deal of stress because of this issue.
McGough’s suit also claims administrators breached a contract that was offered to him three months before he was released.
According to the complaint, administrators told McGough in June 1995 that Dec. 15, 1995, would be his last day. He claims that in September of that year, he signed a contract with the college that would carry him through the following summer. When December rolled around, McGough said administrators disregarded this new contract.
But Taylor said this was a mistake by central administrators and that McGough knew his position was being cut. “We were in direct contact with him through December and he knew what was happening,” Taylor said.
Cowmeadow and Sigler could not be reached for comment.
Both sides are meeting today before a mediator to try and settle the dispute out of court. Sattler said his client is seeking a settlement of $300,000.
“My goal is to settle this case,” Sattler said. “Whether or not the University will be reasonable is another issue.”
Taylor, however, said there is nothing to settle. “There is no wrong issue here,” Taylor said. “There is nothing to settle other than his own thoughts on what happened.”
Sattler said he has talked to the University’s lawyer and told them about his client’s request. But he wasn’t sure if and what the University was going to counter-offer.
“Hopefully it will settle, but I have some reservations based on conversations I had with the attorney,” Sattler said. “This could very well go to court.”