Professor: DU Discriminated Against Me Because of Gender, Race, Age

Dr. Rosanna Garcia resigned from the University of Denver on June 30.
Photo courtesy of Rosanna Garcia
Dr. Rosanna Garcia resigned from the University of Denver on June 30.
The University of Denver has been the focus of repeated discrimination complaints in recent years. Back in 2018, for instance, the university paid $2.66 million to resolve a lawsuit filed by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which accused DU of paying all of its female full law professors less than the mean average salary of male full professors at the law school. Just months later, business professors complained about their treatment.

The latest claim comes from Dr. Rosanna Garcia, 59, whose EEOC complaint, filed in April, states that "DU, acting by or through its agents and/or employees, has discriminated against and subjected me to different treatment with respect to promotions, teaching opportunities, and other less favorable terms and conditions of employment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act."

Garcia resigned from her post as Walter Koch Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship and professor of marketing at the university on June 30, and she offers a simple explanation for her decision: "Bottom line, I was marginalized."

In response to Garcia's charges, a DU spokesperson offered the following: "We care deeply about fairness, equity and opportunity at DU and take any claims of discrimination seriously. The university is committed to working with the EEOC on this matter and we will not comment further at this time."

Back in 2016, the EEOC sided with six female law professors in their claim that DU underpaid them in comparison with men. The university admitted to no wrongdoing, and didn't issue an apology when it paid to settle the matter in May 2018.

The following August, fourteen past and current professors at the distinguished, nationally acclaimed Daniels College of Business shared complaints about how they were treated on the job. One of them, Ron Throupe, formally claimed that he was a victim of retaliation and Title IX violations.

Also speaking up was DU law school associate professor Rashmi Goel, who made gender and race claims against the university in 2019; she pointed out that she was the lowest-paid professor at the institution despite having served there the longest. And last month, a group of visiting and adjunct instructors alleged that contingent faculty members are being chronically under-compensated, with the pay in some instances falling below the minimum wage.

Prior to coming to DU, Garcia had built up an impressive list of accomplishments. She co-founded a legal tech company called Vijilent Inc., as well as B Academics, which she describes as "an international organization focused on business for good," and wrote Creating and Marketing New Products and Services, a textbook that she points out is "used in universities around the world." She also holds three patents, and since moving into academia, she's been awarded more than $400,000 in grants and was recognized as one of the top Hispanic researchers in business by the PhD Project.

Garcia portrays her time at DU as filled with frustrations. "I was hired in January of 2018 as a full professor, contingent upon approval, which is standard in academia," she says. "But in October, I was told that I would not be hired as a full professor — that I'd be coming in as an associate, even though it was in my contract that I would be a full professor. The faculty had not approved it, and I believe it was purely discrimination."

The next year, Jeremy Haefner, then the university's provost, overturned the decision against Garcia, and she became a full, tenured professor — at which point she became more vocal about problems she saw regarding diversity, equity and inclusion. "Other faculty of color, and women faculty of color in particular, would come to me and tell me their stories," she recalls. "And then most of them would leave the university."

For her part, Garcia says she was excluded from taking advantage of some opportunities at DU and had others taken away from her. "I was running the women's entrepreneurship program when a white male was appointed into a position of entrepreneurship across the entire university, and he took the program away from me," she explains. "The way I found out about that was from a newsletter, when I learned he'd scheduled these programs at a time I was not available — and he knew that, because he had approved my teaching schedule."

Garcia says that she didn't want to miss any chances to take part in actual instruction, because she'd been prevented from doing it for so long. "I was hired as a professor of entrepreneurship, but I was not allowed to teach entrepreneurship — and nobody could ever tell me why I wasn't put into a classroom," she notes. "After I filed the EEOC complaint, I was able to teach one scheduled class, but because it was scheduled at the same time as another class, I was only able to teach six students."

Since she was a full professor at the time that she filed the EEOC complaint, Garcia felt that the action "wouldn't necessarily hurt my status with the university. I had been marginalized from the beginning, so there wasn't anything worse — or so I thought." Afterward, though, a bullying accusation was made against her — the first complaint of any type dating back to when she joined the faculty. The timing was suspicious, she says.

Fed up, Garcia began looking for a new gig, and she was promptly hired as endowed chair of entrepreneurship at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. But she retains a keen interest in DU, whose efforts at improving its track record when it comes to hiring strike her as cosmetic, at best.

"One of the things they did was create a diversity, equity and inclusion committee at the Daniels College level, and I was instrumental in putting that committee together," she says. "But it's just gift-wrapping. It's there to make it seem that things are being done. There's a lot of talk about how things are wrong and how we need to change the way things are being done, but these actions are not happening, and the reason they're not happening is because there's no accountability anywhere within the university."