Former UAB President Charges Age, Sex Bias in Lawsuit
Former University of Alabama at Birmingham President W. Ann Reynolds has sued the UA System board of trustees, charging she was ousted from her job because of her age and sex, and demanded back pay, compensatory damages and reinstatement.
Reynolds reluctantly agreed to step down in 2001 (see Black Issues, Oct. 25, 2001). She now is a professor in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at UAB with a salary of $86,549 a year.
The suit says Reynolds was summoned to meet with then-system Chancellor Thomas Meredith and board President Sid McDonald in August 2001, “where she was told, at age 63, that she should announce her retirement within a few days.”
The lawsuit says Dr. Frank Franz, president of the University of Alabama in
Huntsville, is two months older than Reynolds but has not been asked to retire.
The suit alleges that Meredith “did not want to continue to have to deal with a forceful woman.”
University of Alabama spokeswoman Kellee Reinhart issued a statement saying, “The university denies Dr. Reynolds’ allegations that it has discriminated against her in any way and will vigorously defend itself against her claims.”
At the time, the board gave no official reason for requesting that Reynolds retire.
Trustees cited several factors in interviews: what they called Reynolds’ aggressive management style, which provoked complaints from the campus; a conflict with the chancellor over lobbying efforts in the Legislature;
and concerns that Reynolds’ administration had not adequately supported monitoring of grants and contracts.
After her departure, the presidency was offered to Dr. William Roper, dean of the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the suit alleges. When Roper declined, the job was offered to current President Carol Z. Garrison, who is 14 years younger than Reynolds.
McDonald, now a trustee, said he had not seen the suit, but he called it regrettable. He said age and gender did not play a part in Reynolds’ retirement.
“I’ve been confident all the time that she has no basis to claim discrimination,” McDonald says.
Board president pro-tem John McMahon declined to comment.
— Associated Press
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