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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Molly Birch
Molly Birch

My name is Molly, and I am in my second year at NMU. I come from Midland, MI, probably one of the most boring places on earth. However, we do have the only Tridge in the world, so that’s pretty nifty...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

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NMU pays $1.46 million in gender discrimination lawsuit settlement

Jesse Wiederhold/NW

A group of four professors and NMU reached a pre-trial settlement for $1.46 million in a gender discrimination lawsuit. The settlement was made seven weeks before the scheduled trial in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. The Bloomfield Hills-based law firm Sterling Attorneys at Law, P.C. which represented the professors announced the decision in a press release on Thursday, Sept 10. 

Professors Claudia Hart, Carol Steinhaus, Karin Stulz, and Margaret Vroman of NMU’s College of Business filed a suit in February 2019 “alleging they suffered gender discrimination and disparate pay compared to their male colleagues,” according to the Sterling press release.

Brian Farrar, the professors’ attorney, said his clients were very pleased and hope that their story inspires others to stand up for fairness in the workplace. 

According to North Wind reporting on February 15, 2019, the suit alleged the average male salary in the College of Business “significantly exceeds” the average female salary across all ranks and disciplines over the last 12 years, despite the plaintiffs performing equal work under similar conditions.

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“We encourage women and men in positions of authority to take a stand and support justice in their workplaces. Individuals struggle to fight injustice alone,” Hart said in the press release.

According to previous North Wind reporting, the complaint further claimed the College of Business discriminated against female faculty by giving male faculty members preference in choosing the classes they teach, making it easier for male faculty to qualify for tenure and awarding tenure track positions to male faculty members instead of equally or more qualified female faculty members.

“We have been fortunate to have friends, family and complete strangers stand by us and our cause for equal pay for equal work. We hope to inspire others to pursue justice,” Stulz said in the press release.

The case began with an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge which is needed before a gender discrimination case can be heard in federal court. The Department of Justice refused to hear the case but did not dispute the information found. The group of professors later filed a lawsuit on Feb. 8, 2019.

“Although it took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to this point, it will all be worth it if it results in positive change in pay and attitudes,” Vroman said in the press release.

According to the press release, Steinhaus wishes to acknowledge all the wonderful NMU students she has had the pleasure of teaching during her career.

NMU administrators made the following statement.

NMU is pleased to have reached a voluntary and amicable settlement with four former college of business faculty. The settlement allows the university to move ahead in the best interest of the students. NMU wishes the faculty well in their retirements.

To the extent the faculty members’ lawyer intends to imply that the settlement could be viewed as evidence of any wrongdoing by NMU, NMU would like to point out that each of the faculty members expressly agreed to the following statement: “The Parties acknowledge, represent, and agree that this Agreement is not intended to be, and shall not be construed as, an admission of fault or liability, to any extent whatsoever, by any Party.”

All NMU faculty salaries are set according to collective bargaining agreements with the faculty union.  “Northern Michigan University is committed to equity and inclusiveness, two integral components at the core of who we are as a community,” said President Fritz Erickson.

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