A second former dean at the UA has joined a lawsuit that alleges gender-pay inequality for female deans at the school and work-place retaliation.
Janice Cervelli, former dean at the UA College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, has joined the $2 million federal lawsuit filed earlier this year by former Honors College dean Patricia MacCorquodale against the Arizona Board of Regents.
In an amended complaint filed Wednesday, Cervelli claimed she and other female deans were systematically underpaid compared with male counterparts and subjected to gender discrimination at the University of Arizona.
UA spokesman Chris Sigurdson said the university could not comment because the amended lawsuit hasn’t been served to ABOR.
“I think that (Cervelli) joining the complaint just reinforces what was said in the original lawsuit and what we repeated in the amendments,” said their attorney James Richardson. The two former deans are being represented by the law firm Sanford Heisler Sharp.
“We said in January that the issue with female deans was widespread — it’s not just Dr. MacCorquodale. We filed on behalf of current and former deans, and Ms. Cervelli joining us just shows that the allegations in the original complaint were true,” he said.
Cervelli became a professor in 1981, served as a Clemson University dean between 2000 and 2007. She served as a UA dean from 2008 to 2016.
Cervelli was paid $225,000 a year by the UA and claimed she never received a raise in those eight years, the amended lawsuit states. Her listed salary does not include an administrative stipend she received when she served as special assistant to the UA president from 2013 to 2016.
Cervelli is now president of St. Mary’s College in South Bend, Indiana, and MacCorquodale remains at the UA as a tenured professor.
The lawsuit states that Cervelli’s salary fell below the average male dean’s average salary of $320,212 in 2016 — her last year as dean — despite performing the same duties as her male colleagues and successful leadership of her college.
Cervelli also cites unfair treatment by then-Provost Andrew Comrie, who isn’t listed as a defendant but is named throughout MacCorquodale’s original lawsuit. The university announced Comrie’s resignation as provost, and his return to a faculty job, on the day the original lawsuit was filed.
Cervelli claims that under Comrie, the Office of the Provost conducted “off-cycle” reviews and “secret follow-ups” following her positive five-year review in 2014. The lawsuit states Comrie told her he was going to send someone to her college to gather information about her, but refused to tell her what questions they were going to ask. This was described as “highly irregular conduct.”
She also claims that she was denied pay raises given to male deans, including one year where the university received funds specifically targeted for providing raises.
In the original lawsuit, Comrie was reported to have told a dean that a female dean had a “Hillary Clinton complex.” Cervelli claims in the amended lawsuit that Comrie was referring to her. The lawsuit also said Comrie “criticized Ms. Cervelli for her assertive personality and commanding presence” during one of her reviews.
Comrie said former UA President Ann Weaver Hart had a “Hillary Clinton complex” and a “wicked temper,” according to the amended lawsuit. The comments were described in the lawsuit as part of a trend of misconduct by Comrie against female deans.
Cervelli said she brought the issue before four different provosts and Allison Vaillancourt, vice president of business affairs and human resources, yet they were never addressed. The amended lawsuit claims Vaillancourt took Cervelli’s formal complaints about Comrie directly to the provost.
“VP Vaillancourt’s actions serve to underscore an environment where gender bias and discrimination are not only tolerated but protected by the UA leadership,” the lawsuit read.
An amendment to the original lawsuit also cites retaliation against MacCorquodale by high-level UA administrators after her lawsuit was filed in January.
The day after the lawsuit was filed, Lynn Nadel, faculty senate chairman, defended Comrie in a blog-like posting sent out to faculty called “Chair Talk.”
“I have never, not once, seen Andrew treat anyone with disrespect as a function of gender, race, sexual orientation, status — you name it,” Nadel wrote in the posting. His statement was also published by the Chronicle of Higher Education, which published an article about MacCorquodale’s lawsuit.
Some faculty felt Nadel misused his position of power to misrepresent faculty opinion. In response to faculty backlash, he later published another “Chair Talk” in which he invited all faculty members to voice their concerns of pay inequity at the school via a report due at the end of the semester.
Nadel, reached by email because he is out of the country, said “Chair Talk” is strictly his opinion and he does not represent the UA administration. He decline further comment.
“It was ridiculous for anybody to attack Dr. MacCorquodale’s claims from the get go,” said Richardson, the attorney. “Especially those individuals who didn’t have firsthand access to knowledge of what they experienced, and I hope that Ms. Cervelli’s claims show these folks that they spoke too soon.”
The collective action lawsuit seeks to represent all female deans at the university who faced similar situations.