Volume 4, Issue 3 University of Houston
Gor's lawsuit against the University heads
By Ken Fountain
On December 20, a federal judge ordered the parties in an employment discrimination lawsuit against the University to participate in an outside mediation to resolve the dispute.
U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. referred the case, Beverly Gor v. University of Houston, to a third-party mediator, Pamela Hoerster of the Hoerster Mediation Firm in Houston. According to Werlein's order, the mediation must take place within 90 days of the date of the order.
In her lawsuit, filed in January 2001, Gor, a former lecturer in the College of Technology, claims she was discriminated against on the basis of her race and gender, and denied a promotion in retaliation for her support of another former faculty member's complaints of gender discrimination against tenured faculty member Ira Wolinsky.
Court documents filed in the case reveal that Wolinsky has a documented history of complaints made against him, and that he admits to having made sexually explicit comments about some colleagues.
In 1994, Gor wrote a letter for former Department of Human Development and Consumer Sciences professor Mohs "in which she detailed her own experiences with Wolinsky and the reports about Wolinsky that she had received from students," the lawsuit states.
In her letter, Gor wrote that Wolinsky, a Fulbright Scholar and a nationally recognized researcher in the field of nutrition (who is Jewish), "had ridiculed her belief in Jesus Christ and also that he had repeatedly and openly disparaged the primarily female dietetics profession," the lawsuit states.
The suit claims that "Wolinsky learned of the letter and later complained to Gor that she should not have written (it) because it could be damaging to him."
In the summer of '95, Gor, a licensed dietician who began working at the University in '87, applied for a newly created position as director of a dietetic internship at the college.
Gor claims department chairwoman Barbara Stewart told Gor she would like to offer Gor the position, but "Wolinsky had commented that he did not want Gor to have that position because of the letter she had written in support of Mohs' complaint. Stewart then encouraged Gor to call Wolinsky and discuss the situation with him directly."
In its official answer to the lawsuit, the University denies that Stewart told Gor she wanted to offer her the permanent position, but admits "Wolinsky had expressed reservations to Stewart about (Gor) assuming the position."
Gor, a Chinese-American, claims when she talked with Wolinsky, he said he considered her to be "minimally qualified" for the position. When she pointed out letters of recommendation she had submitted, "his response was to question the objectivity of one letter because it was written by another Chinese-American," and he asked if the writer was related to Gor, the lawsuit states.
In its answer, the University admits "Wolinsky believed (Gor) was 'minimally qualified,'" but that it does not confirm or deny that Wolinsky said so to Gor. It also admits that Wolinsky "may have questioned the objectivity of one of (Gor's) letters of recommendation," but it denies "that he did so because the letter was written by a Chinese-American."
In August '95, Gor assumed the internship director's job on an interim, part-time basis and re-applied for the full-time position. In October, she recommended a male student for the intern program.
"Wolinsky dismissed her suggestion by saying that the only reason Gor liked him is 'because of his plumbing,'" the lawsuit states. "Gor was offended by Wolinsky's comments and, when she asked him what he meant, Wolinsky replied that he had been attracted to some of the female students."
In its answer, the University admits Wolinsky made the statement about Gor's liking the male student "because of his plumbing." However, it denies that Wolinsky stated he had been attracted to some of the female students.
Gor made an official complaint of the incident to the UH Office of Affirmative Action in December '95.
In April '96, a search committee chaired by Wolinsky chose Clint Stevens for the internship director job. Gor was offered only a part-time teaching position, the lawsuit states.
A month later, Gor resigned as interim director and filed a complaint of retaliation and discrimination with both UH and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Gor now works as coordinator of the Institutional Diversity Program of Houston's M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
In the year since Gor filed her lawsuit, her attorney, Katherine Butler, has attempted in discovery motions to obtain all information the University has pertaining to complaints regarding Wolinsky's alleged discriminatory or abusive behavior.
In July, the University revealed in court documents that Stewart and former College of Technology Dean Bernard McIntrye "spoke to Wolinsky regarding a comment … regarding a male intern." In August 2000, current dean Uma Gupta wrote two letters to Wolinsky regarding "complaints of improper conduct" and the college's "standards of conduct."
The University also acknowledged 20 complaints by faculty members, staff members and students of Wolinsky's alleged behavior, including misuse of state mail and telephones, turning out the lights in a women's restroom and verbal harassment.
Clint Stevens, the man chosen for the position which Gor was denied, resigned in early 2000 after making several complaints against Wolinsky. Stevens, who is openly homosexual, claims that Wolinsky repeatedly referred to him as a "pansy." In a July deposition, Wolinsky said it was "possible" he had made such a comment. Stevens, who in September sent a series of scathing e-mails to dozens of people about his alleged mistreatment by Wolinsky and others in the department, has since moved out of Texas.
In his deposition, Wolinsky also admits to referring to former faculty member Jenna Anding as "Jenna talia" in front of a group of people, possibly a class.
In its answer to the lawsuit, the University claims it had "legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons" for not hiring Gor for the internship director position, and would have made the same decision regardless of her gender or national origin.
Gor declined to discuss the still-pending litigation. Wolinsky also
declined to speak about the specifics of the case, but made a point that
since he has been instructed by the University's legal team not to discuss
the case, "I'm in a defensive position."
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