In two separate stories, well-known professors are involved in allegations of harassment by George Mason and Virginia law schools. Conservative law professor Ronald Rotunda left George Mason University with his wife Kyndra Rotunda (who worked in the law school’s clinic) after she accused another professor of sexual harassment. They transferred to Chapman University. In the meantime, on the liberal end of the spectrum, Professor William Eskridge, Jr. has testified that he left the University of Virginia in 1985 due to its discrimination against him as a gay man. Eskridge was not accusing the current faculty of such misconduct.
Ronald Rotunda (left) was viewed as something of a catch for George Mason, a law school with a highly conservative reputation and faculty. The school hired Kyndra Rotunda (right) to serve as director of a legal assistance clinic for military service personnel, but she alleged that she was harassed by clinic director Joseph Zengerle. The allegations in her EEOC lawsuit include, but are not limited to, (1) she was paid less than Zengerle; (2) he called himself her “knight and protector”; (3) he bought her a scarf and suggested how she should wear it; (4) invited her to drinks alone at his house and became upset when she did not show up; and (5) Zengerle “repeatedly came uncomfortably close.”
Ronald Rotunda reportedly raised his wife’s treatment with the faculty after she resigned, including what he viewed as an insufficient response from the administration. While the equity committee was not sure if sexual discrimination was the cause of the problems, the faculty committee made more positive findings in favor of the claim.
Rotunda wrote in his resignation letter to Polsby that ‘[f]or the past year, George Mason has revealed itself as an institution more concerned with hiding its dirty laundry than cleaning it.”
George Mason has had some tough times with faculty controversies. A few years ago, another well-known conservative scholar (and former assistant secretary of commerce to President George W. Bush) William Lash III shot and killed himself and his autistic son after an argument with his wife, here.
In a different story, Eskridge’s testimony in support of the Employment and Non-Discrimination Act of 2009 last week raised some eyebrows when it included an accusation that he left Virginia for Georgetown in 1985 due to a hostile workplace for gays. This included criticism of his scholarship (which is rightfully considered some of the best in the academy) and a chairperson of the tenure and promotion committee who “stormed into my office and screamed at me for 10 minutes or so . . . With clenched fists and a beet-red face, the chair of the committee threw a tantrum that included a string of accusations, such as ‘stabbing me in the back’ and behaving in the treacherous manner that he and his colleagues ought to have expected of a ‘faggot.'” He says that the unidentified professor “spat on me and called me dirty names” and ultimately reduced Eskridge to tears.
It was an amazing account from one of the country’s most prolific and respected academics.
Here is a copy of the Rotunda complaint: Kyndra Rotunda Amended Complaint
For the full story, click here.