Campus Law This Ohio U administrator is suing the university for racism By Marilyn Icsman Posted on August 26, 2017 8 min read 2 0 1,174 Schoonover Center for Communication Photo by Connor Perrett A former Ohio University administrator filed a lawsuit against the university for employment discrimination in July, alleging that she was targeted for her race and sex. Michelle Ferrier, who is black, was hired by Ohio U as the Scripps College of Communication’s associate dean for innovation, research/creative activity and graduate studies. Photo courtesy Ohio University. Ferrier named Scott Titsworth, the dean of Scripps, and Heather Krugman, the Chief Financial Officer and Director of Operations at Scripps, as defendants along with the university. Both are white. The complaint details Ferrier’s mistreatment while in her position, which allegedly began when Krugman “harassed and targeted” Ferrier by subjecting her to levels of scrutiny that white male administrators did not face, withholding information from her and “publicly denigrating” her in front of other faculty and staff. According to the lawsuit, Titsworth joined in on the harassment after Ferrier approached him about Krugman’s behavior, and later removed her deanship, making the majority of her job teaching rather than researching and performing administrative duties. She protested this change because she was hired as a dean and “returning to faculty would undermine her career goals and limit her growth in her desired field,” according to the complaint. Ferrier lodged an official complaint in April 2016 to the Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance, which has still not issued a final ruling. Titsworth and Krugman were dismissed as defendants by the judge, and a response from the university argues that the court should rule in the university’s favor because “the complaint fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted,” “Dr. Ferrier’s claims may be barred in whole or in part by the applicable statute of limitations” and “Dr. Ferrier’s discrimination claims rest on nothing more than her own idle speculation.” Ferrier’s complaint claims that she “quickly excelled as an associate dean, earning national prestige for her research initiatives and thousands of dollars in grants for Scripps College. She also routinely received praise for her work, both within the University and from outside institutions.” While the university’s answer to the complaint acknowledges that Ferrier received one $25,000 grant while at Ohio U, it denies that she excelled as a dean and that she received praise for her work. The response also denies that Ferrier herself faced discrimination during her time as dean, but it admits to Ferrier’s allegation that she alerted the university of “a history of abuse at Scripps College toward African-American women in leadership roles.” Across all of Ohio U’s campuses, there are 58 full-time black administrators out of 1,538 total, with 53 of those at the Athens campus. Ferrier was the only black administrator in the Scripps College and notes her importance as a “role model” in the college as a black woman in the complaint. Ohio U spokesperson Carly Leatherwood said she cannot comment on ongoing litigation, but pointed out the university’s “strong commitment” to diversity retention and recruitment efforts, which is detailed in the Diversity strategic plan. This plan, from the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, includes several diversity-related goals for staff of the university. One goal is “to cultivate Senior & Executive Leadership to promote, encourage and sustain a commitment to diversity and inclusivity in the recruitment and retention of faculty, staff and students” by providing continuous education to faculty on diversity trends in higher education and society.” Another section encourages each academic college to retain underrepresented faculty. There is also a plan to ensure “at least one candidate represents an underrepresented population in each interview pool and on each search committee” to promote inclusive searches. President Duane Nellis said in an interview with The New Political in July that while efforts of diversity have been strong, he wants to continue to work on the issue. “In the context of diversity and inclusion, creating an environment that is supporting of everyone in the community, we have a number of programs in place, but we are in the process of examining where we’re at with our efforts of diversity and inclusions,” Nellis said. “We have an opportunity now to kind of reassess our efforts in that area, which I think have been strong, but there are things we could do to continue to enhance our efforts in that area. CORRECTION 8/28 11:03 a.m. : A previous version of this report incorrectly stated Ohio University had admitted to a history of discrimination, however they admitted Ferrier told them she believed there was a history of discrimination.