A federal magistrate has recommended that the University of the District of Columbia give $20,000 in back pay and a nine-step promotion to a professor of social welfare who claimed that she was systematically passed over for promotions because she is white.
Magistrate Jean F. Dwyer said that UDC has failed to give Iris Kern, 42, proper promotions, forced her to teach more courses than other faculty members, kept her from teaching courses in her areas of expertise and even gave her an office without "an appropriate number of electrial outlets and an appropriate nameplate on the door."
Dwyer's recommendation now goes to U.S. District Court Judge John Lewis Smith Jr., who can accept it or modify it. In April 1980, Smith found the university in "willful violation" of Kern's civil rights and awarded her a "default judgement" because UDC failed to supply various documents to Smith, including a racial breakdown of the faculty.
"Of course I am delighted," Kern said yesterday from her home in Mount Pleasant. "But I continue to remain extremely frustrated. The university all but ignored the fact that a default judgement had even been awarded."
Kern, who has taught at UDC for nine years, first filed reverse discrimination charges in 1979. Kern, then an associate professor, charged that because of discriminatory faculty rating policies she did not receive the promotions and salary that her qualifications and experience warranted. Kern also claimed that she was denied equal opportunity to teach summer classes and thus earn additional pay.
University spokesman John Britton said that UDC will appeal the amount of the back pay Dwyer recommended that Kern receive.
"Come Monday or Tuesday we're pretty sure that the Corporation Counsel [UDC's legal representative] will make the case that the award is excessive," he said. But Britton said he did not know by now much UDC would seek to reduce the award.
Kern, who has a doctorate in social welfare from Catholic University, joined UDC in 1972 as an assistant professor. Now, as an associate professor, she is paid $23,530 a year, which would be increased to $28,350 if Smith upholds Dwyer's recommendation. She would also be promoted to a full professorship.
Britton said the university "always contended that there was no such thing as reverse discrimination in this case."
According to the magistrate's report, Smith and Dwyer ordered the university at least five times to produce certain documents, mostly information on the racial makeup of the school's faculty and staff. "They kept coming to court, hearing after hearing, empty-handed," said James McConville, Kern's attorney.
Smith's judgement did not find the university guilty of reverse discrimination, but did accept Kern's allegations as true when the university failed to produce the documents.
Kern still contends that there is racial discrimination at UDC. "It's not clearly black and white, but I suspect that white women are discriminated against. It's the classical sexist approach."