2nd educator enters gender discrimination lawsuit against ABOR

Janice Cervelli (Source: Saint Mary’s College)
Janice Cervelli (Source: Saint Mary’s College)
Published: Mar. 7, 2018 at 8:20 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 7, 2018 at 9:05 PM MST
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Dr. Patricia MacCorquodale (Source: YouTube/UA Honors)
Dr. Patricia MacCorquodale (Source: YouTube/UA Honors)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A second University of Arizona educator is being named as a plaintiff in a $2 million collective action gender discrimination lawsuit against the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR).

The amended complaint, filed Wednesday, March 7, alleges that ABOR and the UA dramatically paid its female deans less than it paid male deans.

Janice Cervelli was added to the collective action lawsuit on Tuesday, March 6, according to a news release from the legal team of Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP. Cervelli is the current President of Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana, and was the former Dean of the College of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture at the UA until 2016.

Cervelli joins former Honors College Dean Patricia MacCorquodale who filed the initial lawsuit January 22.

The complaint alleges that ABOR failed to adequately pay Dr. MacCorquodale during her tenure, relative to male deans at the university and to her male successors at the Honors College. Dr. MacCorquodale has been employed with the UA since 1978, according to the news release from her attorney.

Since filing the initial collective action lawsuit, Dr. MacCorquodale's legal team said she has been retaliated against, including public attacks by high-level UA officials that attempted to discredit her complaints, according to a news release.

"The addition of Ms. Cervelli as a named plaintiff should lay to rest any doubts that anyone might have had about Dean MacCorquodale's credibility, and bring an end to the unjustified attacks on her that began after she filed this complaint," said David Sanford, the firm's chairman. "Both of these outstanding female deans experienced significant pay disparities during the same period of employment. This is not a coincidence; this is how the University of Arizona discriminates against its female academic leaders."

The amended complaint states that in her eight years as Dean, Cervelli earned $225,000 every year, not including her administrative stipend as Special Assistant to the President.

"In contrast, the average male dean made $311,404 in 2014-2015 and $320,212 in 2015-2016," the amended complaint explains. "For example, the University paid the male dean of the College of Pharmacy at least $61,720 more annually and the male dean of the College of Optical Sciences $87,512 more annually during this period, even though both colleges were of comparable size to Ms. Cervelli's. Compared to the average male dean doing substantially similar work, the UA underpaid Ms. Cervelli by nearly $135,000 since January 2015 alone."

The initial and amended complaints both specifically point a finger at then-Provost Andrew C. Comrie as perpetuating, "a culture that marginalizes, demeans, and undervalues women," they said.

He's accused of, among other things, making disparaging comments toward Cervelli to both her and her colleagues, saying that Cervelli, "suffered from a 'Hillary Clinton complex,' echoing derisive comments he had made to Ms. Cervelli herself."

On Tuesday, Jan. 23, we learned Dr. Comrie was stepping down from his position of provost, having served for more than five years, according to an email to all staff from UA President Dr. Robert Robbins. The email states Dr. Comrie had been discussing an approach to the transition for the last few weeks and he would be returning to a faculty role in the School of Geography and Development.

When asked by Tucson News Now, university communications staff denied that Comrie's decision and the lawsuit were connected.

The amended complaint, along with the initial filing, said the attorneys of Dr. MacCorquodale and Ms. Cervelli are seeking an injunction against ABOR, "to prevent further retaliation and other illegal conduct violating the Deans' rights and the rights of other collective class members."

They are also seeking an adjustment to the wage rates and benefits, along with back pay, front pay, and other damages for lost compensation to the professor and the others involved in the lawsuit, the news release stated. They are seeking a jury trial.

When asked about the initial lawsuit in January, ABOR Director of Communications Julie Newberg said in a written statement, "We don't have comments on pending litigation."

We have reached out to ABOR Communications Staff for a response to the allegations listed in the amended lawsuit and received this response, "We have not been served the lawsuit at this time, but would not be able to comment on pending litigation."

Filed Final Amended Complaint by Tucson News Now on Scribd

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