Professor Sues College for Gender and Race Discrimination, Saying It Promoted Less-Qualified Professors Ahead of Her

A college professor is suing the college where she teaches for gender and race discrimination, alleging that the administration prevented her from advancing on the tenure track at the same rate as her colleagues. Wang v. Macalester College, No. 62-CV-12-9750 (Minn. Civ. Ct. – Ramsey Co., Dec. 21, 2012). She further claims that, after denying her requests for promotion, the college retaliated against her for speaking out about it.

Wang Ping, the plaintiff, is a professor of English at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. A native of China, she began working at Macalester in 1999 after getting a doctorate from New York University. She became an assistant professor in the English department in 2001. According to her complaint, she requested promotion to associate professor in 2003, but was denied. She finally made associate professor in 2005. A committee denied her request for promotion to full professor in 2009, allegedly stating that her academic record “did not meet the high standard for promotion to full professor.” After she reported the matter to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Wang alleges, the college retaliated against her by “refusing to facilitate her projects.” She received a promotion to full professor in 2012.

Other assistant and associate professors, Wang alleges, received promotions to full professor before her, despite what she says were her superior qualifications and credentials. She claims that her colleagues in the English Department were confident that her promotion to full professor would be a “slam-dunk.” She reportedly appealed the promotion decision to a faculty committee, asserting that the promotion committee did not follow the college’s formal procedures. The appeals committee reported to the college president, according to the Macalester student newspaper, that the promotion committee’s denial of Wang’s promotion “violated Professor Wang’s academic freedom.” The president reportedly concluded, however, that the promotion committee did nothing wrong.

Wang’s lawsuit asserts causes of action for discrimination under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination “because of race, color,…[or] sex…with respect to…tenure.” Minn. Stat. § 363A.08(2). This statute is similar to anti-discrimination laws in other states, including the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 also prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, sex, and other factors.

According to Khanh Ho, a former English professor-turned-writer, Wang’s experience is a common occurrence in academia for women of color, especially Asian women. Among white male professors at the University of Southern California, he claims, only eight percent who sought tenure were denied, while the denial rate for minority professors was forty percent.

Wang is a well-known poet, and she recently publicized her dispute with the college at a conference at the University of California at Berkeley, where she read a poem she wrote about another Asian professor who, she contends, was a victim of discrimination by Macalester College. Soek-Fang Sim taught International Studies at Macalester from 2003 to 2006, when the college did not renew her contract. She died of cancer in 2007.

If you need to speak to an employment discrimination attorney in New Jersey or New York, contact the Resnick Law Group at 973-781-1204 or (646) 867-7997.

Web Resources:

Register of Actions (PDF file), No. 62-CV-12-9750, Wang v. Macalester College, Civil Court, Ramsey County, Minnesota, March 29, 2013
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