An amended complaint filed Tuesday as part of a gender discrimination lawsuit against the University of Richmond alleges multiple women at Hope College experienced “belittling and discriminatory behavior” at the hands of Patrice Rankine, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.
In January 2019, mathematics professor and former associate dean of arts and sciences Della Dumbaugh filed a federal complaint against UR claiming that she was discriminated against based on her female sex and effectively fired from her position in the dean’s office during fall 2017.
UR filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, and in September 2019, a Richmond court granted its motion but gave Dumbaugh the chance to amend her complaint.
“The judge found that the facts alleged in the complaint, even if assumed to be accurate for purposes of the motion to dismiss, failed to support the claims for legal relief,” UR spokeswoman Cynthia Price said in an email statement. “The University is gratified by the court’s ruling.”
District Judge John A. Gibney Jr. ordered that the court dismiss the first count of gender discrimination with prejudice, meaning that Dumbaugh could not file a future case on the same grounds. Gibney also dismissed the second count of a hostile work environment, but he did so without prejudice, thus allowing Dumbaugh to amend her complaint.
In the 17-page amended complaint, Dumbaugh altered and clarified some language from the original complaint and included new information.
On Feb. 9, 2019, a former colleague of Rankine’s from his time as Dean of Arts and Humanities at Hope College wrote to UR leadership “describing similar types of belittling and discriminatory behavior towards women at that institution,” according to the amended complaint.
Dumbaugh also listed in the amended complaint that in 17 interactions she had with the dean — 15 scheduled meetings, one unscheduled meeting and a resignation phone call — “she experienced hostility in 11.”
The amended complaint included that another female university employee “described a similar mutually-respectful relationship with Dean Rankine that suddenly turned adverse.” In a statement from that same female employee to members of UR leadership, she described that during an incident one Friday, Rankine had interrupted her and had scolded and criticized her while she cried.
According to the amended complaint, the female staff member awakened the following Monday to an email from Rankine “articulating the same points all over again,” which made her “too distraught to go to work that day.” The employee also documented “having ‘observed Dr. Rankine upset at least two other women in the A&S Dean’s office including Dr. Dumbaugh and make unprofessional comments about female faculty members.’”
Dumbaugh used approved faculty meeting minutes from April 12, 2018, to allege in the amended complaint that Rankine’s announcement of a male associate dean’s return to the history department “stood in stark contrast” to Rankine’s “brusque announcement” of Dumbaugh's return to the mathematics department.
The amended complaint stated that Rankine’s announcement had no acknowledgement of Dumbaugh’s contributions nor expression of gratitude, “all of which were standard protocol when associate deans return to their departments.”
When reached through his assistant, Rankine said that all questions regarding the lawsuit should be referred to Price.
“The University continues to strongly dispute the allegations in this lawsuit,” Price said. “However, as we have said previously because this matter involves respected members of our community, the University does not plan to comment further.”
Stephanie P. Karn, attorney for UR, and Scott Crowley, attorney for Della Dumbaugh, could not be reached for comment.
UR will file a response to the complaint at the appropriate time, Price said.
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