Image 01 Image 03

“Gender Equality” Leader Vassar College Sued By Female Profs For Paying Them Less Than Men

“Gender Equality” Leader Vassar College Sued By Female Profs For Paying Them Less Than Men

Complaint: “Despite publicly claiming a storied role in the movement for gender equality, Vassar has long and privately been underpaying its female professors.” Bwahaha.

Well, well, well. Vassar College, the Oberlin College of the East, is being sued in a class action by female professors for sex discrimination in compensation and promotions.

Vassar, once a women’s college, holds itself out as a leader in Gender Equality, so much so that then Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the Women’s Equality Act at Vassar:

So there’s a certain irony in Vassar being accused of pay inequality. (Cuomo resigned after allegations of sexual harassment, another irony.)

Before I jump into the allegations and court pleading, you need to know that while I can report and analyze objectively, I have a history of being on the receiving end of malicious Vassar virtue signaling and intolerance, including from some Vassar female professors.

Vassar and Me

In 2014, in response to the Anti-Israel “Climate of fear” at Vassar, I challenged pro-BDS (anti-Israel boycott movement) professors to a debate. None took me up on it, and some — including a female prof –even tried to organize a boycott of my appearance.

My appearance defending Israel led to Vassar student anti-Israel activists sharing antisemitic Nazi propaganda posters, leading to widespread condemnation of the atmosphere at Vassar.

In 2016, I exposed how those anti-Israel groups, supported by faculty including female faculty, invited disgraceful Rutgers prof. Jasbir Puar to give a speech on how Israel supposedly harvests the organs of Palestinians and stunts the growth of Palestinian youth. Again, there was widespread condemnation and negative publicity.

So when I came to Vassar to speak in 2017, there was a history of hostility to me, including from female faculty, some of whom likely are part of the class of female profs in the pending lawsuit.

In 2017, Vassar faculty, students, staff, and administrators tried to prevent me from giving a lecture on “free speech and hate speech”:

I summarized my experience in a USA Today Op-Ed: My pro-free speech views made me a target at Vassar College:

I became the campus-wide object of hate at Vassar College for defending free speech….

I have watched these anti-free speech mobs from a distance, and from a news perspective. At my website, Legal Insurrection, I’ve written about many dozens of such incidents which started with attacks on Israeli and pro-Israeli speakers going back almost a decade and now have migrated into the mainstream.

I have given many lectures on campuses, mostly focusing on opposing the academic boycott of Israel and on the subject of anti-Semitism.

But I’m not a household name. And I’m not particularly controversial, although I do stick out at Cornell as one of only a small number of openly politically conservative faculty members.

So despite my campus speeches and conservative politics, I never really thought the anti-free speech mob would come for me. Until they did, at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y….

A student activist group at Vassar, with the help of Vassar student government, spread false claims to the entire student body that event information was shared by me “on multiple white nationalist websites,” that there was “active encouragement for other white nationalists to come to the event,” and that there was a need to “protect the people that this speaker has targeted in the past.” None of this was true.

Two forums were held attended by over 200 students, faculty and staff, for the purpose of planning how to prevent ME from harming students. The claim reportedly was made at that forum that the “speaker himself is trying to incite violence.” That was a lie without any factual basis….

The student activists put together a research team to pour though my thousands of blog posts in order to falsely portray me as the equivalent of a Richard Spencer-type character. Being mainstream right-of-center became the equivalent of being a neo-Nazi or White Supremacist.

So complete was the demonization that one event poster was defaced by putting horns on my head.

Students put together a safety plan for the day of my speech that reads like parody, but was real. It included the now-common “safe spaces,” but also safety and emotional support teams. The Library was designated one such safe space and “will provide coloring books, zine kits, markers, construction paper etc.,” per a campus email. In case students had trouble finding a safe space, “Safe(r) spaces will be occupied by designated Vassar students with glowsticks.”

This all was surreal.

And then the Vassar student government moved in to kill the event, demanding in a letter from the Executive Board that Vassar’s president prevent me from appearing:

“We strongly urge you, on account of students undergoing serious and real pain, to take our words and ideas seriously, and work towards breaching the contract, ultimately preventing him from coming to campus on Wednesday… We urge you to think critically about these things. Rather than just engaging the abstract, we urge you to understand how these ideas have physical implications for the safety and well-being of real students on this campus…”

I was permitted to appear, under heavy security….

Because I committed to discussing free speech and the constitutional protection of even hateful speech, I was made the object of hate by student activists who whipped the campus into a frenzy.

Why would any right-of-center student, faculty member or guest speaker want to endure what I had to go through? For that matter, why would any liberal defender of free speech want to undergo such a smear campaign?

A Vassar alumnus in the student newspaper ripped the administration’s treatment of me, Alum to Vassar College President: “You owe Professor Jacobson a public apology”:

Dear President Bradley,

On Oct. [24], you sent out a message [here] to the Vassar community “to help prepare” the students, faculty and administration “for tomorrow.” While you oddly included two additional and unrelated events in your message, the sole reason for “preparing” was the lecture to be given the following day by William Jacobson, professor of law at Cornell University. It was only for this event that you were “made aware of the very real and legitimate pain that students are feeling.” …

What was the cause of all this childish caterwauling? A lecture. A lecture by a law professor. A lecture by a law professor from Cornell. A lecture by a law professor from Cornell on free speech. A lecture by a mainstream, right-of-center law professor, falsely accused by H2A [student group Healing to Action] of affiliation with white supremacists and neo-Nazis. You knew all this, and yet you still stoked the fires of “real and legitimate pain” when there was absolutely nothing real or legitimate about it.

There are two problems with your message in addition to the obviously false accusations against Professor Jacobson on which it was based. The first is your acceptance, endorsement, and encouragement of the infantilization of the Vassar student body. For $68,110 per year, students deserve better than to be treated as preschoolers. In the end, this produces nothing but resentful, angry, and closeminded graduates, ashamed of their own inability to engage in cogent argument and discussion, and unable to cope with the real world. It is a terrible disservice to the lives of these young people.

The second problem is your embracement of H2A, who you profusely thanked for their “excellent and compassionate work” and for working “tirelessly and creatively to develop safety teams and plans.” …

Compare and contrast the position of H2A [on free speech] with the position of Mr. Jacobson. Professor Jacobson is no provocateur. Not a single utterance in his lecture was outside mainstream legal or constitutional thought. I challenge you to find a single word in his lecture that you even disagree with, let alone ones that could inflict “real and legitimate pain.”

You sent out the message, loud and clear, that while Mr. Jacobson and his ideas are, at best, to be grudgingly tolerated, H2A and its ideas are to be encouraged, supported, and thanked. This is shameful coming from any faculty member, and egregious coming from the president of the College. Now more than ever, the students of Vassar need to hear the ideas expressed by Professor Jacobson. It should have been you who personally invited Professor Jacobson to speak. You should have personally endorsed his message, and you should have personally asked the Vassar community to attend.

To the eternal shame of Vassar, it appears that not a single member of the Vassar faculty or administration publicly supported Professor Jacobson or his free speech message. It also appears that many, like you, actively supported H2A.

In their silence and actions, the faculty and administration at Vassar have clearly learned a lesson from Nicholas and Erika Christakis at Yale University. This couple dared to speak truth to power, and it cost them their careers.

You owe Professor Jacobson a public apology, and you owe the Vassar community a statement thoroughly repudiating H2A and its ideas.

Another Vassar alum wrote a Letter to the Editor of USA Today:

It saddened me to read William A. Jacobson’s column “My pro-free speech views made me the target of a smear campaign at Vassar College.” During his speech, he dared to talk about the inherent tension between free speech and safe spaces. But since the term “hate speech” was in the title of the talk (An Examination of Hate Speech and Free Speech) some overly sensitive students took that as a trigger warning. To them, the speech itself was not only alarming but also quite dangerous. If Jacobson’s words were uttered on campus, those words would themselves be a form of violence in their midst.

This is not the Vassar College I once knew.

When I was a student there, more than 35 years ago, The Vassar Spectator was founded on campus. I enthusiastically participated in helping to get this conservative literary journal up and running not because I was particularly aligned with the ideological views of the publication, but rather because I thought it essential to have a variety of opinions and perspectives well represented and expressed on campus. Many students, faculty and administrators expressed similar enthusiasm for the intellectual diversity that this publication helped foster.

It’s too bad that there has been a dramatic change over time in this ideal. Ironically, it’s at the most liberal of liberal arts schools where the fear of ideas not aligned with one’s own seems to have become an acute anxiety disorder.

This episode saddened me, but it did not surprise me. Nothing surprises me anymore about the goings on at my alma mater.

Sex Discrimination Complaint

So do I have an axe to grind with Vassar? Nah. But I will continue to hold them to account as the facts and circumstances warrant.

I have to say, though, it brought a grin to my face to see there now is a class action lawsuit brought by five female professors on behalf of the class of all female professors.

WaPo reports:

Five female professors at Vassar College are suing the elite institution in Upstate New York — one of the country’s first colleges to educate women — alleging decades of systemic wage discrimination by paying them less than their male colleagues….

“Vassar isn’t the only educational institution that is suffering from these issues … but what makes this striking is its origins in providing education to women and promoting equity,” said Melvina Ford, an attorney representing the professors and the national legal director at the nonprofit Equal Rights Advocates. “This is part of the college’s mission and values, so it’s important that they correct these pay inequities.”

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the Southern District of New York, accuses Vassar of violating federal and state equal rights laws by underpaying, underpromoting and unfairly evaluating women.

Vassar did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Professors Wendy Graham, Maria Höhn, Mia Mask, Cindy Schwarz and Debra Zeifman are seeking class-action status on behalf of all women currently or formerly employed by Vassar as full professors from May 14, 2015, through the resolution of the case. They are asking the court for back pay, including interest and benefits, as determined at trial.

Thirty-five female full professors or emeriti at Vassar issued a statement of support of their colleagues, calling on the college to “finally root out systemic discrimination and rectify the clear pattern of gender pay disparities.”

From the Complaint:

3. Despite publicly claiming a storied role in the movement for gender equality, Vassar has long and privately been underpaying its female professors. Average salary data shared with The Chronicle of Higher Education reflect a gender pay disparity for full professors at Vassar in every year for the last two decades. Most troublingly, these data reflect a widening of the gender pay gap at Vassar over time: the disparity was 7.6 percent (its smallest) in the 2003-2004 academic year; grew to as high as 13.4 percent in the 2010-2011 academic year; and remained at 10.0 percent in the 2021-2022 academic year (the last year of available data).

4. Since at least as early as 2008, and consistently since then, female professors have internally elevated concerns to the Vassar administration about unequal pay within the College’s ranks. Instead of remedying its gender pay gap, Vassar responded by decreasing the level of transparency about faculty salaries, in an apparent attempt to mask its decades-long pattern of underpaying of women. In so doing, Vassar stands in stark contrast to the many employers—including within academia—to have heeded the nationwide call to increase pay transparency. Vassar’s turn toward opacity would be problematic for any institution, let alone one that so publicly claims to strive for equity and inclusion.

5. Vassar also systematically delays the promotion of female professors, causing women to advance more slowly through faculty ranks at the College. The College’s performance evaluation system, too, is marred by discrimination. Vassar’s College-wide compensation, promotion, and evaluation policies, while facially neutral, have therefore had a disparate impact on women. These policies must be reformed, to ensure fairness and gender equity moving forward.

What’s the word I’m looking for? Bwahaha.



Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.


Paying Less Them Than Men

2smartforlibs | August 31, 2023 at 1:03 pm

Nice clickbait header.

Capitalist-Dad | August 31, 2023 at 1:22 pm

Now that’s hillarious!

The Gentle Grizzly | August 31, 2023 at 1:23 pm

The headline I’m reading. What is type of English that ?

It’s truly heart-warming to see the woke eating their own.

Bwahaha. It’s a good word. I should use it myself.

You have to pay more for math professors owing to opportunities elsewhere.

    CommoChief in reply to rhhardin. | August 31, 2023 at 2:07 pm

    Yeah I was wondering the same thing. Is there a discrepancy among disciplines that could be explained by simple supply and demand? Lots of these ‘pay gap’ stories fall apart when accounting for education, experience, hours worked, willingness to travel or work overtime in the normal work environment. I suspect the same holds for academia where there initial CV and experience is the floor then add publication (and relative prestige of the journal) plus teaching load, student/peer evaluation.

      diver64 in reply to CommoChief. | September 1, 2023 at 3:49 am

      Since women gravitate towards teaching grievance studies, black studies, women studies etc which are all non serious fields of endeavor it’s not surprising they get paid less.

The Solution? Pay ALL the professors, both male and female, ZERO.

goddessoftheclassroom | August 31, 2023 at 2:21 pm

“Thirty-five female full professors or emeriti at Vassar…”
That should read, “Thirty-five female full professors or emeritae at Vassar.”
(I am an alumna of a women’s college!)

Of course the lawsuit has no merit. The very facts the plaintiff cite about Vassar’s historical commitment to female advancement militate against it having at the same time engaged in deliberate discrimination against female academics. If there is a pay gap between male and female professors, it must be fully attributed to the latter happening to be worth more, on average, than the former.

But this defendant can’t say that! That’s the beauty of this story. Their own woke ideology precludes them from arguing that a specific set of men happens to be in higher average demand than another specific set of women, and the genders of the two sets is pure coincidence and could easily have gone the other way. They have spent decades rejecting all such arguments, and now when they need it for themselves they can’t use it.

Hence Bwahaha.

1. Comparing averages will always get you hammered by specifics. They need to be able to compare exactly comparable jobs and personnel and demonstrate a difference there.

2. “Disparity” is not enough to claim “discrimination.” That has to be demonstrated by showing that no other benign explanation is possible. If the resumes and academic “output” are not very similar, the defense will rip you apart.

3. Again, with promotions, you’re going to have to show actual, individual instances of unfairness.

“Fair” is one of those Progressive doctrines that really isn’t as virtuous as it sounds. It mostly means “I don’t think you gave me a big enough piece of the cookie, and I’m going to pitch a tantrum over it.”

However, I welcome the coming legal showdown to see if their claims have any merit. And if they do, I hope they eat each other alive.

    Milhouse in reply to GWB. | August 31, 2023 at 7:14 pm

    Exactly. But Vassar is precluded from using that defense, by its own politics and ideology. It has spent decades officially and loudly denouncing that defense. Hence, as the good prof put it, Bwahaha.

    M Poppins in reply to GWB. | September 4, 2023 at 3:01 pm

    “Fair” has no meaning outside of the kindergarten sandbox.

50+ years ago, the unofficial MIT student handbook advised us not to bother trolling Vassar, as it was almost exclusively a Harvard preserve. The consensus was that Wellesley girls were much more approachable and low-maintenance, and at way less than 10% of the distance.

For us car-less students, for whom even 12 miles was prohibitive, its top suggestion was Mary Mumford’s School for Girls in Back Bay. It turned out to be entirely fictional, but supplied us with memorable alternative opening lyrics to “Let It Be.”

Friends do not let friends have anything to do with Vassar.

Whatever it once might have been, it’s clearly a weird place to spend four of the first years of adulthood.

Staffed by weird people whom you would not want speaking with your teenaged child for more than an hour or two.

Having read the complaint it is hard to draw any conclusions. The focus of the complaint is on full professors and the average salary compensation. It turns out that for Associate and Assistant professors, the salary was not objectionable. Despite the fact that the complaint was initiated by “world class” … “professors”, no where in the complaint is it stated that the average pay differences is statistically significant – a modest but standard element in any research paper addressing differences of a statistical nature. It appears that the starting (hiring) salary for male (full) professors is higher than that for female professors. Also the complaint stated that male professors were given higher merit status but without providing any analysis for this differences. Finally, there is no mention about any salary differences related to academic discipline such as Law (usually higher pay) vs Modern Language (usually lower pay). Instead the complaint seems to assume that a full professor is a full professor: all teach 5 courses a year. However these full professors are not interchangeable and there is an outside market that influences pay as there are always alternatives.

I might suggest that Vassar could easily put the whole issue behind them just by having a select few male professors identify as female. – no real change would be necessary. The assertion would, of course, be unassailable.

    Suburban Farm Guy in reply to Arnoldn. | August 31, 2023 at 6:57 pm

    But the second they identify as female their pay is instantly cut. By 23%, which I hear is the standard disparity. Nobody wants to do that.

      Then I’ve got a great solution. If the women feel like a raise, let them declare themselves to be men, and viola, instant moolah. Who knew it could be that simple?

    Milhouse in reply to Arnoldn. | August 31, 2023 at 7:20 pm

    That’s what I suggested when CA required company boards to have at least one female director. If at any time there happen not to be any actual women on the board, then at each board meeting one director should take it in turn to be the designated female for the day.

“I do stick out at Cornell as one of only a small number of openly politically conservative faculty members”

I guess that means you are correct politically rather than politically correct!

    M Poppins in reply to CaptTee. | September 4, 2023 at 3:05 pm

    Dear Professor Jacobson,
    There is no “center”, no political spectrum. There is only the totalitarian left – and those who oppose it.

Dear Professor Jacobson,
There is no “center”, no political spectrum. There is only the totalitarian left – and those who oppose it.