A federal jury believed the University of Iowa’s law school illegally
denied a promotion to a conservative Republican because of her
politics, former jurors told The Des Moines Register.
jurors said they felt conflicted about holding a former dean personally
responsible for the bias. They wanted to hold the school itself
accountable, but federal law does not recognize political discrimination
by institutions. “I will say that everyone in that jury room
believed that she had been discriminated against,” said Davenport
resident Carol Tracy, the jury forewoman.
Meanwhile, attorneys for
Teresa Wagner on Tuesday filed a motion for a new trial in the case
that scholars agree could have national implications in what some argue
is the liberally slanted world of academia.
The University of Iowa College of Law dodged a potential employment discrimination verdict in a case tried in Davenport last week. But the case could still come back to haunt the university.
Regardless of the outcome, this case raises questions about the hiring policies at the University of Iowa College of Law, and perhaps in the university as a whole. The U of I respects the goal of diversity for race, religion and gender, but it should show the same respect for diversity of political thought.
This case involves a lawsuit filed by Teresa Wagner against the law
school after she was turned down for a faculty position in the legal
analysis, writing and research program. Wagner is a Republican who has
worked for anti-abortion organizations. She alleged that she was passed
over the position not because she lacked the qualifications but because
she was blackballed by liberal members of the law school faculty.
law school denied politics were involved in the decision not to hire
her. The university claimed Wagner was turned down because she had
performed poorly in an interview. ...
Some testimony in this case was troubling. Wagner was turned down
despite enthusiastic praise for her interview performance by members of
the faculty appointments committee and members of the law school
administration. Not all on the faculty were supportive, however. Carolyn
Jones, the law school dean at the time, said she rejected Wagner for a
faculty position because of opposition within the faculty. According to
testimony, Jones said “she always adopts the faculty’s recommendations.”
members testified that they opposed hiring Wagner because she had
performed poorly in the job interview. But an associate dean expressed
concern in an email that Wagner might be opposed by professors who “so
despise her politics.”
Whether a new trial is justified for this case, it raises important
questions that should ultimately be resolved by Iowa courts.