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Civil Rights Professor Sues CUNY For Discrimination

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A City University professor who has established a national reputation researching remedies for civil rights violations has claimed that her own rights have been violated, and has filed a lawsuit charging retaliation prohibited by disability discrimination laws, The NY Times reported.

Lynda G. Dodd was hired close to a decade ago to help lead a new undergraduate program for CUNY to promote diversity in the legal profession. When she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she was denied early tenure due to the output of her scholarly work.

A tenured appointment is an indefinite academic appointment that can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances. The path to becoming a tenured scholar at a university requires one to produce a prolific amount of research.

Dr. Dodd experienced numerous health setbacks after 2010, as her progressive “M.S. symptoms worsened, including declining mobility, extreme fatigue, and a severe form of pain… her efforts to obtain a reasonable accommodation of additional time to complete her research were met with hostility and obstruction,” the suit said against CUNY reads.

Dr. Dodd, 49, has a Ph.D. in politics from Princeton, and a law degree from Yale. After serving as a law professor at American University, she came to City College in 2010 to bolster a new, high-profile program, the Skadden Arps Honors Program in Legal Studies, to help prepare more students from underrepresented backgrounds for legal careers, NY Times reported.

In a surprising display of support, 50 political scientists who focus on law and courts wrote CUNY praising her work.

Some senior college officials voiced concerns that she did not meet the “high standards” for “research production” and was “taking forever” to produce books and articles.

“The reaction I got was — you’ve got to be kidding… She writes as if she’s a much more senior scholar, and her contribution is equal to that of many senior scholars” said Charles R. Epp, a University of Kansas professor who helped organize the letter-writing effort.

Dr. Vincent G. Boudreau, was named CUNY president in December, after serving as interim. Former president Lisa S. Coico resigned because she is under federal investigation for the alleged use of money from a college foundation to pay personal expenses.

Dr. Dodd contends that Dr. Boudreau, a political scientist, has played a key adversarial role during the tenure process and is now the college’s final arbiter, as president, of her future at City College. The lawsuit of a civil rights professor suing over the violation of civil rights, could be a landmark ruling.

By R. Kotkin

 

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