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TCU 360

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Two students joined harassment and discrimination lawsuit against TCU

Photo by Heesoo Yang.

A 2018 alumna and a senior have joined a lawsuit that accuses the university of fostering a climate of hostility and discrimination against minorities.

An amended complaint filed in federal court earlier this month accuses the outgoing Dean of the AddRan College of Liberal Arts Andrew Schoolmaster of groping and touching the alumna weeks before her graduation; the other student blames “discriminatory treatment” at TCU for the onset of Type I diabetes.

“As a practice, TCU does not comment on pending litigation beyond the papers we file in court. TCU is focused on creating a respectful and inclusive community for all students,” said Holly Ellman, the associate director of strategic communications management.

When asked for comment, Schoolmaster referred inquiries to Ellman.

The suit also names Leigh Holland, a Title IX investigator. She also deferred to Ellman.

The filing was added to the suit filed on behalf of Jane Doe No. 1 in January. That initial suit accused Dr Diane Snow, then dean of the John V. Roach Honors College, of physical and verbal abuse during a month-long course last summer in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Frederick Gooding, who was named in the first suit, has been dropped as a defendant.

The alumna was identified as Jane Doe No. 2 and the senior was listed as Jane Doe No. 3 in the lawsuit.

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The university has until May 20 to respond to both complaints from Jane Doe No. 2 and Jane Doe No. 3.

Jane Doe No. 2

According to the suit, Jane Doe No. 2 met Schoolmaster in April 2018. She had earned a 4.0 GPA and AddRan’s degree certification director insisted that she meet Schoolmaster, the suit said.

One week later, Doe No. 2 was meeting with an AddRan administrative assistant when Schoolmaster walked in and asked for budget data for the Civil Rights Bus Tour to “take it away and give the funds to something else,” according to the lawsuit.

While the assistant was gone, Doe No. 2 said Schoolmaster walked over, caressed her bare knee and apologized for interrupting the conversation, the suit said.

The lawsuit said Schoolmaster “dehumanized” and “degraded” Doe No. 2 when he touched her lower-inner thigh and to the crease where her legs crossed.

The suit said the behavior wasn’t uncommon for Schoolmaster. Although the incident was later confirmed through a Title IX investigation, Doe No. 2’s attorneys were critical of how the investigation was handled.

The lawsuit claims that when Doe No. 2 reported the incident to TCU’s Title IX Department a week later, officials there tried to discourage her from filing the complaint by saying her “fears were valid” but retaliation was prohibited.

Doe No. 2 didn’t file a complaint until May 1, 2018. The suit said during the two-week interim she could not focus on her classwork while changing her schedule to avoid Schoolmaster.

According to the suit, TCU’s Chief Inclusion Officer and Title IX Coordinator Darron Turner, “doubted,” “discredited” and “villainized” Doe No. 2.

After not getting a response about her complaint for several weeks, Doe No. 2 met with then-Provost Nowell Donovan and recounted the incident to him. Donovan said he “wouldn’t touch his wife in that manner” and would contact the Title IX office as to why they were “dragging their feet,” according to the lawsuit.

After that meeting, Kathy Cavins-Tull, the vice chancellor for student affairs, informed Schoolmaster of Doe’s Title IX complaint, according to the lawsuit.

Despite trying her best to stay away from Schoolmaster, he showed up at her graduation celebration in AddRan “to further harass and intimidate Jane Doe No. 2,” according to the lawsuit.

The suit said she immediately contacted the Title IX office and spoke with Holland. However, she didn’t report Schoolmaster’s appearance because she said felt violated because her “private” conversation was answered on speaker-phone and Holland was reluctant to make the call private, according to the suit.

Doe No. 2 was notified that the Title IX office concluded that her complaint contained enough information to warrant an investigation on June 21, 2018, according to the lawsuit. This is over two months after the incident happened.

Schoolmaster admitted he inappropriately touched Doe No. 2, according to the report by the Title IX office, but said it was meant to be “respectful and courteous.”

He then said it was unplanned and spontaneous, according to the lawsuit, and called Doe No. 2’s report “frivolous and ridiculous.”

The investigation was complete on August 3, 2018. Turner concluded that Schoolmaster inappropriately touched Doe No. 2’s leg and violated TCU’s 1.005 Discrimination, Harassment and Related Conduct Policy.

The lawsuit says that Schoolmaster’s punishment was only a one-hour, one-on-one, in-person Title IX training and a one-hour online Title IX training before the beginning of the semester, according to the lawsuit.

However, the lawsuit argues that Schoolmaster’s only true sanction was the in-person conversation, since all professors are required to complete the online training.

Doe wrote Turner to appeal the sanction, saying her assault was minimized to a “touch” on the leg and Schoolmaster’s lack of punishment. Her appeal was denied. She never received an apology from the university, Turner or Schoolmaster, according to the suit.

Jane Doe No. 3

Jane Doe No. 3 blames her Type 1 diabetes diagnosis on the discrimination and mistreatment that she has experienced at TCU. The lawsuit says she was subjected to racism, hate and bigotry everywhere she went besides her own dorm room, which she shared with two other minority women.

She experienced racism in the classroom where professors facilitated racist conversations and classwork that reinforced white supremacy, according to the lawsuit.

Doe No. 3 even experienced racism in a religious group, according to the lawsuit, when a campus minister claimed her dog was racist and did not like people of color in her home. She did not attend any religious events through TCU again after this.

During her time as a faculty assistant in the John V. Roach Honors College, Doe No. 3 claims she was forced to do non-academic work late into the night was harassed when she did not respond in a timely manner, according to the lawsuit.

Despite her treatment, TCU wanted Doe No. 3 to participate in school activities because she could speak about her experience with a Chancellor’s Scholarship. She claims she is being used as a minority show piece, according to the lawsuit.

Doe No. 3 said she had a difficult time managing her diabetes and classwork with the treatment she received on a daily basis, so she reached out to Student Disability Services for help. She has not received any communication from them besides a request for more information on her condition, according to the lawsuit.

Doe No. 3 said Turner discouraged her from filing a formal complaint with the Title IX office because it would be a “hassle,” according to the lawsuit. She has yet to receive a response from the university regarding the discrimination she endured at TCU, the suit said.

The treatment she has experienced has prevented her from going to class often and turning her homework in on time. She quit her job in the Honors College and has considered leaving TCU. Doe No. 3 also decided she would not be able to attend graduate school anymore because of the stress she’s endured.

Dr. Silda Nikaj

Dr. Silda Nikaj, who first filed a lawsuit against the university in January claiming she faced racial and gender bias while she taught in the economics department, responded to TCU’s counterclaim that was filed in February.

The counterclaim said that Nikaj’s suit lacked evidence that met “federal pleading standards” and that she failed to inform the university that she had accepted a full-time position at the National Institute of Health (NIH), which prevented her from performing her obligations to teach and advise her students.

Nikaj denied all allegations in TCU’s counterclaim, including the fact that she failed to teach and advise her students when she accepted her position at NIH and that her constructive termination claim is “frivolous, unreasonable and groundless.”

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