Fired Oberlin Prof lawsuit: Told “we can’t just hire another white woman from the Midwest with a husband”
Alice Blumenfeld alleges race, sex, sexual orientation, and national origin/ancestry discrimination, and lost tenure track opportunity in favor of “a non-Caucasian, gay man of Filipino descent who does not appear to be from the Midwest or in a heterosexual marriage …, even though Ms. Blumenfeld was more qualified for the position.”
Alice Blumenfeld is a former Oberlin College Assistant Professor of Dance, starting in 2018 until termination on June 30, 2020.
Blumenfeld has filed a lawsuit in state court alleging that she was terminated after a more senior professor made disparaging comments, as first reported in the Morning Journal:
In the filing, Alice Blumenfeld of Huron says after serving as a visiting assistant professor of dance between 2018 and 2020, she was denied a fair opportunity for a tenured position due to her race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation and marital status.
Oberlin College discontinued Blumenfeld’s employment as of June 30, 2020, and she had applied for a new position as an assistant professor of dance.
The lawsuit describes a July 7, 2019, meeting between Blumenfeld and Oberlin Dance Department Chair Ann Cooper Albright, where she was advised to look for a new position, allegedly being told, “we can’t just hire another white woman from the Midwest with a husband.”
“Ms. Albright, acting individually and in her capacity as chair of Oberlin’s Dance Department, effectively rejected Ms. Blumenfeld for the new tenure-track position, not because of her accomplishments, her skill, her experiences, her work ethic, or her individual and personal qualities, but instead, because of her race, the color of her skin, her sex, her sexual orientation, her national origin, and her ancestry,” according to the suit.
Blumenfeld filed a complaint with Rebecca Mosely, Oberlin College’s director of Equity Diversity and Inclusion, over the matter asking for confidentiality fearing professional repercussions, the suit says.
In January, Oberlin College hired a candidate for the role whom the lawsuit argues was less qualified.
“While Ms. Blumenfeld was more qualified for the tenure-track position than the individual Oberlin hired, she failed to meet the identity-based qualifications that the defendants required, which included qualifications based upon race, skin color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin and ancestry,” the lawsuit alleges.
After filing a formal complaint under the Oberlin College policy on discrimination and harassment, an internal review by the college concluded Blumenfeld had not suffered any discrimination or retaliation and was free of bias; however, the report allegedly identified some problematic patterns, the lawsuit maintains.
In addition to the above, the Complaint alleges that there was a pattern of discrimination against white people in the dance department hiring process in which the college “planned to create and fill a new position in the Dance Department based upon an individual’s immutable characteristics and not based upon their qualifications, experience, or character” and that there was retaliation for her asserting claims of discrimination.
She asserts that “[d]uring the hiring process, Ms. Blumenfeld was also treated differently than the other three job candidates that Oberlin considered (all of whom were not Caucasian)” and further:
77. Oberlin failed to hire Ms. Blumenfeld because of her race, Caucasian, and skin color, white, and instead offered the position to an individual whose race and skin color were neither Caucasian nor white.
78. Due to Defendants’ discriminatorily motivated actions, Ms. Blumenfeld went through a dehumanizing and humiliating experience that caused her to suffer emotional distress and anxiety. She understandably felt miserable and demeaned in her work environment and throughout the hiring process because she was unlawfully mistreated due to her race and skin color.
She alleges that she also suffered discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation (heterosexual), and marital status (married), in favor of “a non-Caucasian, gay man of Filipino descent who does not appear to be from the Midwest or in a heterosexual marriage over
Ms. Blumenfeld, even though Ms. Blumenfeld was more qualified for the position.”
She also alleges national origin and ancestry discrimination:
“Oberlin failed to hire Ms. Blumenfeld because of her national origin and ancestry, as an individual from the United States, of European heritage, and having spent a portion of her youth in the Midwest of the United States, and instead offered the position to an individual who is of Filipino ancestry and who is not from the Midwest of the United States.”
In response to my inquiry, Oberlin College’s spokesman stated that the college had no comment on the case. Prof. Albright did not respond to my request for comment, including whether she denied making the statement attributed to her as recounted in the Morning Journal.
We will continue to follow this case, as we are all the other Oberlin College litigations.
Here is a video of Prof. Blumenfeld giving a TED Talk about Flamenco, her specialty:DONATE
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