Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Friday, May 24, 2019

D.C. judge denies AU’s request for retrial in professor’s age discrimination case

University had previously been ordered to pay former SIS instructor over $1.3 million

D.C. judge denies AU’s request for retrial in professor’s age discrimination case

An excavator in front of the School of International Service in September 2018. 

Earlier this month, a D.C. Superior Court judge denied American University’s motion for retrial regarding an age discrimination lawsuit brought by former School of International Service professor Loubna Skalli-Hanna. 

The University filed a motion for a new trial on Nov. 7, less than a month after the D.C. Superior Court found AU guilty of age discrimination against Skalli-Hanna during her application process for tenure. The University had been ordered to pay the former professor “$1,151,000 in economic damages and $175,000 in emotional distress damages,” according to a press release by the law firm representing her, Bernabei & Kabat, PLLC.

According to the Feb. 5 court order issued by Judge Michael Rankin, the University’s lawyers argued  “that no reasonable jury could have found in favor of plaintiff on her claim based on the evidence presented at trial.” This evidence included testimony from statician Bridget Bly who argued that there was a, “statistically significant relationship between awards of tenure and the age of candidates,” according to the court order. 

“[The University] is disappointed with the result but we respect the decision of the Court,” Kelly Alexander, an AU spokesperson, said via email. “Regarding why we filed the motion, we firmly believe that there was no discrimination in this case.” 

The University argued that the evidence was “based inappropriately on a narrow pool of tenure decisions.” Other evidence included the words “Old SIS,” which then-president Neil Kerwin had written on an agenda memo during a meeting between him and then-provost Scott Bass. The University claims this was not related to the complaint of age discrimination. 

The Eagle previously reported on Skalli-Hanna’s lawsuit, as well as the claims and lawsuits of five other female professors who had accused the school of racial, age and gender discrimination when their applications for tenure were denied by the provost. 

Skalli-Hanna, who spoke with The Eagle in a phone interview, said she is “just shocked at the denial” that the University has shown in reaction to the court decision. 

“[I am] hopeful that the current administration will come to terms with AU’s past so that the current administration can move forward,” Skalli-Hanna said. 

jgagnon@theeagleonline.com  


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