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Duquesne University president denies discrimination allegations

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The outgoing president of Duquesne University's faculty senate claims apparent "patterns of gender-, racial- and age-related discrimination" exist on campus, an allegation university President Charles J. Dougherty adamantly denies.

"There is no problem with discrimination at Duquesne. The problem may be with a small group of people who think there is," Dougherty said last week during an interview with Tribune-Review reporters and editors.

In early May, outgoing faculty senate President Paula Witt-Enderby, a pharmacology professor, told Dougherty in an e-mail that the senate "heard from an increasing number of faculty members about discrimination."

Witt-Enderby said faculty members indicated they filed or planned to file complaints with the university's Affirmative Action Office and grievance committee, as well as the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

Witt-Enderby, whose term as senate president ends June 30, did not say in the e-mail how many faculty members approached the senate with complaints. She declined comment Friday.

Dougherty rebutted the allegations in a reply to Witt-Enderby and sent copies of his reply to all Duquesne faculty and staff members with a university e-mail account.

In the e-mail, Dougherty said he suspected the complaints mentioned by Witt-Enderby included ones brought by three unidentified employees of the law school.

Tension has existed between Dougherty and the law faculty, punctuated by his firing of former dean Donald J. Guter in late 2008. "It is fully expected that (the claims) will be proven groundless," Dougherty said.

Dougherty said Affirmative Action Office data showed "no unusual increase" in complaints.

"Our numbers support this," said Judith Griggs, the university's affirmative action officer, in a statement. She said there were eight complaints in 2007, six in 2008, eight in 2009, and nine cases are under investigation this year.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission would not say how many cases it had, if any, involving Duquesne. The EEOC did not return a call seeking comment.

"The facts are that for a complex university, we have very, very few complaints," Dougherty said.

He said the university is committed to equality, citing its faculty minority hiring program; a minority scholarship program that helped increase freshman minority enrollment 53 percent between fall 2007 and fall 2009; and a requirement that all hiring searches include recruitment of underrepresented groups.

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