A gender discrimination lawsuit against the University of Oregon will continue to trial following a successful appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, attracting significant attention due to its potential repercussions for other American universities. The case marks the first instance in which Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bans discrimination in federally funded academic institutions, has been cited civil litigation regarding an academic issue rather than an athletic one.
A former doctoral candidate in education sued the University in Oregon in 2008 after asking 15 faculty members to replace the recently-resigned chairman of her dissertation committee, all of whom refused. The student's lawsuit argues that the faculty members declined her request because she previously claimed the University's College of Education was biased against female students.
The University of Oregon has repeatedly denied the accusations detailed within the lawsuit, arguing that it supports legal protections for all students and maintaining that the decisions made by faculty of the College of Education were appropriate and "unaffected by discrimination." University Officials assert that professors were influenced solely by the plaintiff's potential as a doctoral candidate and academic history.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff and other graduate students contacted College of Education administrators with complaints regarding the lack of female role models of faculty members in the department. The plaintiff contends that her former advisor began treating her poorly compared to male students upon learning of the complaints and eventually stepped down from her dissertation committee. She left the University in 2008 after being unable to finish her degree, though College of Education officials had initially encouraged her to pursue a doctorate.
The University requested that the lawsuit be dismissed for failing to show discrimination and retaliation, with which the original judge complied. However, a 9th Circuit panel of three judges decided to overturn that ruling. The University then asked for a larger panel of judges and petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case. Both requests were denied. Oregan lawyers have their work cut out for them in complex cases such as this.
The Register-Guard, "Gender discrimination suit against UO advances" Greg Bolt, Jul. 10, 2013