Stephanie Dellande, Black Professor Denied Tenure, Claims Victory in Suit Against Chapman

Chapman University denies race plays a part in tenure decisions, but a federal judge just signed off on a consent decree that has the private institution in Orange paying a former business faculty member $75,000 to resolve a lawsuit that claims she was denied tenure because she is black.


Federal Lawsuit Alleges Racial Discrimination Against Black Professor at Chapman

Chapman also must take other steps to ensure what happened to Dellande never happens again, according to the decree.

Holding a BA from Loyola, an MBA from UC Riverside and a Ph.D. in marketing from UC Irvine, Dellande had been hired by Chapman's George L. Argyros School of Business & Economics in 2001. She applied for tenure and a promotion from assistant professor to associate professor in 2006, something that was not out of the question given the positive comments and recommendations she received from peers, students and superiors. But she was denied tenure and, after she appealed, was discharged in June 2008.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced in September 2010 it had filed a lawsuit against Chapman in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Southern Division, that alleged the Argyros School denied tenure and a promotion to Dellande because of her race, a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“Chapman University's actions caught me completely off guard–like a punch in the gut–especially since I was told that I was on track for tenure,” says Dellande in the EEOC advisory on the court's consent decree. “In the big scheme of things, it meant that I would not have a seat at the table where policies were made, simply because of my race.”

The suit, which sought back pay, punitive damages and an injunction to prevent racial discrimination at Chapman, made no references to racially motivated comments from faculty or administrators. However, the suit did note Dellande was the first black professor ever to seek tenure at the Argyros School and the only black person in a department of roughly 30 people. The EEOC also alleged non-black professors who were less qualified than Dellande were promoted.

But after the EEOC failed to reach a pre-litigation settlement with the university's Board of Trustees, a federal district court sided with Chapman.

“The EEOC's case had no merit, and the federal judge saw that,” Chapman University Chancellor Daniele Struppa told City News Service. “Candidates for tenure must meet very high standards, and the decision in Professor Dellande's case was based solely on her accumulated record of teaching, service and scholarship.

“From the outset of the case, Chapman University has denied that race played any role in its decision to deny Professor Dellande's application to be promoted to a tenured position. Chapman cooperated with the EEOC's investigation for more than three years before the lawsuit was filed. Chapman provided the EEOC with proof that Chapman's decision was based on a good-faith determination that Professor Dellande's overall qualifications fell short of Chapman's high standards for granting tenure.”

An EEOC appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was pending when the agency announced the court decree Monday. Chapman officials, while not admitting wrongdoing, say they settled to end the case now.

“Rather than continue to spend valuable time and resources on this action, Chapman decided to terminate the litigation through settlement,'' the university said in a statement.

Chapman now agrees to: designate an internal equal employment opportunity officer; train all Argyros school employees on their rights and responsibilities on discrimination in the workplace; maintain a centralized system to track complaints by Argyros school faculty
members about denial of tenure and discrimination; revise university policies on discrimination and retaliation; and post a notice on the matter at the Argyros school.

“[T]he outcome is a victory for me,” Dellande says. “I have deep gratitude and appreciation to the EEOC for helping me through this ordeal.”

Email: mc****@oc******.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

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