White Instructor Wins Discrimination Case
MADISON, Wis. — A White art instructor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse could receive $150,000 in damages and a position at the school under a tentative settlement filed earlier this month here in his racial discrimination lawsuit.
It’s been more than four years since John Ready of La Cresecent, Minn., was passed over for tenure for a sculptor instruction position. The job initially was offered to a White woman who rejected the offer.
Sandra Flake, the university’s liberal arts dean, passed the 42-year-old Ready over once more and offered the job to an Asian American man, Cambrid Choy. Flake testified that both were equally qualified so her decision came down to race.
A jury found in 1997 that race was a factor in Flake’s decision. U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb later ruled that the university could use affirmative action to diversity its faculty and staff but that it did so improperly in Ready’s case.
Ready was correct, Crabb ruled, in his claim that the university officials let race govern the choice of Choy for the job. The judge said the university could not use race as a deciding factor in employment decisions.
The school’s affirmative action plan “does not permit a decision-maker to give controlling weight to a candidate’s race,” Crabb’s decision states.
“Affirmative action is very important to the University of Wisconsin System and we wish to diversify our faculty even further and will take steps to do so — all within the law,” system spokeswoman Sharyn Wisniewski says.
She says the university remains committed to diversity and that the ruling has not affected the system’s policy. The university’s affirmative action measures also came under court scrutiny this summer.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision by Crabb to throw out a sex discrimination lawsuit brought by Paul Hill, who sued university officials for hiring a woman instead of him to meeting hiring goals.
Hill had been the unanimous choice of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater campus’ psychology department for a tenured teaching position.
The federal appeals court said a jury could find that a dean at the Whitewater campus “used Hill’s sex not as one factor among the many, but as the sole basis for his decision” not to hire Hill. That case is still pending.
In Ready’s case, the jury verdict would have to stand up to a pending appeal for the settlement agreement to kick in. The deal calls for Ready to receive $75,000 in compensatory damages and $75,000 for lost pay.
The university also would have to hire Ready as director of the LaCrosse campus’ art gallery. He currently runs an art studio in Minnesota.
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