A federal court jury cleared five University of Maryland officials today of intentionally discriminating against a woman sociology associate professor by failing to promote her because of her sex.
But the plaintiff, Dr. Margeret Cussler, is still seeking to prove that the university discriminated against her unintentionally because of her sex. Arguments on the question have been scheduled for next week by U.S. District Judge Edward S. Northrop.
Today's ruling in the $400,000 damage suit Cussler filed in 1972 cleared University President Wilson H. Elkins, Vice President R. Lee Hornbake, former Chancellor Charles Bishop, former Sociology Department head Robert Ellis and associate professor Robert Hirzel of intentionally discriminating against Cussler in violation of an 1871 Civil Rights Act.
During the jury trial, presided over by Judge Northrop, Sylvia Roberts, Cussler's attorney, tried unsuccessfully to present evidence purporting to show that university committees had recommended her client's promotion to a full professorship and that women in general were discriminated against at the university.
The defense attorneys, Francis D. Murnaghan Jr., Neil Strachan and Assistant State Attorney General David Feldman argued that Cussler was not professionally qualified for promotion to full professor and that promotion decisions were based on merit without regard to sex.
The part of Cussler's suit that will be argued before Judge Northrop next week is based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
If she wins, she could be one of the first women to receive a judgment for substantial damages from a college or university for sex discrimination.