Dartmouth prof files discrimination suit

The former chair of Dartmouth College’s theater department is no longer teaching most of her acting courses because she was an older Jewish woman, according to a federal suit filed earlier this month against the college.

Mara Sabinson, a 59-year-old tenured professor at Dartmouth, said that she was asked at a June meeting to voluntarily resign because she did not fit the unspecified “culture of the department,” Sabinson said. If she didn’t resign, she could no longer direct or teach acting, she said.

After the meeting, the vice chair of the department allegedly advised Sabinson to “go to California and find yourself a nice rabbi.” Sabinson said others in the department also have been critical of Sabinson’s “female Jewish style.” She claimed the cultural stereotype she offended was “young, male and Christian.”

Sabinson joined the faculty in 1984 and was tenured in 1991. She was director of the theater department for nine years and served as chair of her department for seven years before she went on a one-year sabbatical in 2002.

After she returned in 2003, Lenore Grenoble, associate dean of humanities, had taken over the theater department and had taken away Sabinson’s advanced acting class, eliminated her directing and limited her participation in department matters, the suit says. She also received no raise that year, without any explanation, she said.

This “campaign of harassment” culminated at a June 2005 meeting, at which Grenoble, provost Barry Scherr and faculty dean Carol Folt asked her to resign, the suit says.

Sabinson then filed a discrimination claim.

Dartmouth hired a younger person, Peter Hackett, from outside the college as the new chairman, and Hackett stripped her almost all of her acting courses, hiring replacements (including Hackett’s wife) without following the usual procedures, the suit alleges.

Instead, Hackett assigned her to teach three newly created first-year writing seminars, for which – Sabinson said – she is unqualified.

Sabinson is seeking to return to her theater classes. A temporary restraining order to that affect was tossed out Dec. 5 for procedural reasons.

Robert B. Donin, general counsel of the college told NHBR Daily that the college is “very disappointed that Professor Sabinson decided to sue Dartmouth. Dartmouth is strongly committed to diversity. The college did not discriminate against Professor Sabinson or violate any of her rights as a faculty member, as we will demonstrate to the court.”

Sabinson’s is the second recent age-discrimination suit against Dartmouth.

In September, 56-year-old defensive line coach Patrick O’Leary charged he was fired following the 2004 season to be replaced by a younger coach.

The new incoming head coach, Buddy Teevens, allegedly told O’Leary that he wanted young coaches who stayed. O’Leary said he had no intention of going anywhere, but later was dismissed and found a coaching job at Holy Cross University for less pay.

Dartmouth, in its response to the O’Leary complaint that was filed earlier this month, said that seven of nine assistant coaches from 1994 were replaced. The college denied telling O’Leary age was a factor, and said that the reason O’Leary was replaced was because of a “negative attitude” and because it had “deep reservations” about his work effort. — BOB SANDERS

Categories: News