Former professor wins suit against SLU

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In the past week, Cornelia Horn, a former assistant professor in SLU’s theology department, won a $367,000 sex discrimination suit against the University.

Horn, who taught at SLU from 2004 to 2012, claimed that when applying for tenure she received biased treatment for being female, and that the decision against her tenure was preceded by belittling and bullying treatment from her male colleagues. Last Tursday, after an eight-day trial, St. Louis Circuit Court jurors sided in favor of Horn. Her claim against the University was two-pronged.

First, she claimed that she was the victim of sexual discrimination when applying for tenure and throughout her time at the University, and second, that she had been retaliated against after filing a claim of sexual discrimination within her department. The jury decided in favor of Horn with both complaints; 9 to 3 on the count of sexual discrimination and 11 to 1 on the count of retaliation.

According to Horn, this complaint was filed in 2010 and contained information that she had been “bullied and intimidated by male faculty” and was among a stark minority of women in the department. The report was received by the department chair, Father J.A. Wayne Hellmann and a formal investigation followed.

Months later, when reviewing her application of tenure, Father Hellmann would cite this instance as evidence of Horn’s lack of collegiality. After the theology department approved Horn’s bid for tenure, the reverend wrote his own letter recommending against providing tenure. It was in this letter that Horn’s collegiality was questioned because of her decision to file a report on sexual discrimination within her department. As part of her suit, Horn claimed that it was the contents of this letter which led the university committee to ultimately deny her tenure. Horn filed an appeal to the decision, but SLU’s thenpresident Fr. Lawrence Biondi upheld the decision.

During the trial, Horn’s lawyers heavily focused on the different treatment for male and female professors within the department. They asserted that in over 40 years, just one woman was promoted to tenure within the department. Most male tenure track professors were promoted, while many female professors had their contracts terminated before they were able to apply or had their applications denied.

SLU stated that it was disappointed in the decision and is exploring its options. In a released statement, it was expressed that tenure is a “significant decision” involving guaranteeing a faculty member “a lifelong appointment.” SLU has also expressed that its process for evaluating tenure is “robust” and does not discriminate against any characteristics protected by law.