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UVSC is target of gender-bias federal lawsuit

Woman says she was passed over for 2 positions

OREM — Utah Valley State College is the target of a federal lawsuit by a former adjunct professor who says she was passed over twice for full-time teaching posts because of her gender.

Susan J. Whitenight, who began teaching part-time at UVSC in 1991, says in the U.S. District Court lawsuit that UVSC discriminated against her when two men were hired instead of her to fill professorships in the theater department — statements that an attorney for the Orem school disputes.

Whitenight, who has a doctorate and who also worked part-time as a costumer for college stage productions, says UVSC filled the first job with a male who held lesser academic credentials.

A second post became available within a year. The job was never advertised to attract other candidates other than the male who eventually was hired, according to the suit.

The suit also says there were no female faculty members in the theater department at the time the job was posted.

Also, the dean of the school of humanities and the head of the performing arts department, who are largely responsible for hiring faculty, are both male.

"Whitenight was not promoted to the position solely on the account of her gender," according to the lawsuit.

After the two men were hired, Whitenight allegedly was told by her supervisors it wasn't likely more full-time positions would become available in the "foreseeable future."

The lawsuit says her supervisors told her she could continue working as a costumer and adjunct faculty for part-time pay without benefits. Her lawsuit seeks money from the school for the amount of compensation — salary and benefits — that she would have received from working in the job.

Or UVSC could pay for overtime hours she says she worked as costumer and adjunct faculty, according to the federal suit.

Whitenight also filed a lawsuit in 4th District Court for alleged violations of the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act. She seeks $23,406 for 1,296 regular and 319 overtime hours for which Whitenight says she was not compensated.

Morris O. Haggerty, the assistant attorney general who represents UVSC, said leaders at the Orem college deny the accusations of discrimination.

"Ms. Whitenight went through the competitive process, but she was not one" of the final candidates for the job, Haggerty said. "There was no discrimination of any sort," he said.

Also, court records say Whitenight's signed timecards throughout her employment never indicate she needed overtime to complete her assigned tasks.

In court files, UVSC attorneys also contend that Whitenight, who says in district court records she didn't include overtime on her timecard for fear of being terminated, was not employed continuously as a costumer and adjunct faculty.

Federal policy requires UVSC to keep records of the race and ethnicity of people who work — or apply — at the school.

Of all workers at UVSC, 46 percent are women. But of the professor's ranks, the number of women dips to 32 percent, according to UVSC's most recent affirmative action report.

Officials say efforts are made to attract women and minority professors. In the 15-month period from July 1999 to October 2000, the number of women faculty increased from 74 to 92, according to the report.