LAWRENCE, Kan. — A University of Kansas assistant professor is claiming in a federal lawsuit she faced anti-German discrimination and a hostile work environment that eventually led to her being told she would lose her job at the end of this school year.
In a federal lawsuit filed Friday, Catherine Joritz said students in the Department of Film and Media wrote anonymous critical evaluations with anti-German comments, including accusing her of being a Nazi sympathizer, The Lawrence Journal-World reported.
Joritz is an American but taught in Germany for 30 years before returning to the U.S. She accepted a tenure-track assistant professor job in the film studies department in 2012. She said a basic video course she taught for the first time in 2014 was criticized by the students in her evaluations.
In the evaluations, the students accused Joritz of being a Nazi sympathizer and said she “drove us nuts frequently mispronouncing well-known words,” and claimed Joritz “talked about Germany all the time,” according to the lawsuit. The student evaluations hurt Joritz’s ability to receive pay raises and continued employment, the lawsuit said.
Joritz said in the lawsuit that she asked faculty members and administrators several times to have the negative comments removed from her permanent record but the request was rejected.
During a tenure-track committee review in the 2014-2015 school year, one of the committee members cited Joritz’s German background as a reason for the negative student comments, saying she had difficulty in adjusting her communication and teaching skills.
In May, the university sent Joritz a letter that she would not be reappointed to her position because her research record demonstrated “insufficient progress toward tenure, warranting non-reappointment.”
According to the lawsuit, she received good evaluations and pay raises until last year.
Joritz filed a similar lawsuit against the university last summer in Douglas County District Court.
Joritz, who is representing herself in both lawsuits, is seeking reinstatement and to the Hall Center for the Humanities Creative Fellowship she was awarded in 2016. She is also seeking any relief the court might find appropriate. Her animated short film, “Zapf Dingbats — A Tribute to Hermann Zapf,” was presented at the 62nd International Short Film Festival in Germany.
University spokesman Joe Monaco declined to comment on the pending litigation.