U. of Iowa Staff Member Sues Law School for Discrimination

January 22, 2009

A staff member in the law-school writing center at the University of Iowa has sued the school and its dean, saying she was turned down for teaching positions because of her conservative political views, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported.

Teresa Wagner filed the lawsuit against the school and its dean, Carolyn Jones, on Tuesday in U.S. District Court.

In the lawsuit, she states that in 2006 she applied for an advertised job as a full-time writing instructor, and that later she applied for a part-time adjunct position teaching writing. She was rejected for both positions, even though she had collegiate teaching experience and strong academic credentials, the lawsuit says. She argues that affiliations listed on her résumé, including stints with groups like the National Right to Life Committee, did her in with a liberal-leaning faculty.

To bolster her case, the lawsuit dissects the political affiliations of the approximately 50 faculty members who vote on law-school faculty hires; 46 of them are registered as Democrats and only one, hired 20 years ago, is a Republican, the lawsuit states. Ms. Wagner also says that a law-school associate dean suggested that she conceal her affiliation with a conservative law school and later told her not to apply for any more faculty positions.

Steve Parrott, a spokesman for the University of Iowa, said the discrimination claim was “without merit.”

Update: After being served with a copy of the lawsuit, Ms. Jones, the dean, challenged the allegations against the school. She told the Press-Citizen that Ms. Wagner had been rejected for a teaching position not because of her politics but because other candidates were better qualified. —Katherine Mangan