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Michelle Ferrier, at the time associate dean of the Scripps College of Communication, in 2015. (FILE)

OU professor drops discrimination lawsuit

An associate professor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism has dropped a lawsuit that claimed Ohio University administrators discriminated against her by race and sex.

In her initial complaint to the Ohio Court of Claims in July, Michelle Ferrier argued that OU, through E.W. Scripps College of Communication Dean Scott Titsworth and Chief Financial Officer Heather Krugman, discriminated against her because she is an African-American woman.

Ferrier came to OU from North Carolina to work as Associate Dean for Innovation, Research/Creative Activity and Graduate Studies for the Scripps College of Communication in 2013, but her position as associate dean was terminated in January 2016. 

In her complaint, Ferrier argued that she excelled as an associate dean, earning thousands of dollars in grants for the college and routinely receiving praise from both inside and outside the university. She was the only African-American in an administrative leadership position at the college, according to her complaint. 

Titsworth told Ferrier her position as associate dean would be eliminated due to a reorganization of the department, but Ferrier’s complaint alleges Titsworth never provided her with an explanation for the reorganization.

Ferrier said during her time as associate dean, Krugman subjected Ferrier to scrutiny beyond that which white male administrators faced, harassed Ferrier about her travel and budget details, and withheld information Ferrier needed to complete her work. She said Krugman “regularly and publicly denigrated” her to other college faculty and staff.

Titsworth did not do anything about Krugman’s behavior when Ferrier approached him about it, she alleged in her complaint. She said he then began to participate in the discrimination against her by decreasing her budget and limiting her responsibilities.

Her complaint states that another unnamed African-American woman faced race and sex discrimination before being demoted in a similar reorganization.

In response to Ferrier’s complaint, the university denied that Ferrier excelled in her position, that there is a history of discrimination against black administrators at OU and that Titsworth and Krugman “engaged in a systematic campaign to undermine (Ferrier’s) role at the University.”

“Dr. Ferrier’s discrimination claims rest on nothing more than idle speculation,” the university wrote in an answer to Ferrier’s complaint.

In her complaint, Ferrier asked the court to award at least $75,000 in compensatory damages, along with attorney fees and punitive damages.


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