Temper Trouble?

Two UA South officials are investigated following complaints from female faculty

Angry. Autocratic. Vindictive. Some women used words like these to describe UA South's associate dean for academic affairs, Wayne Lanning.

One spoke of a figurative "choke collar" being forced on female faculty and staff at the small, semi-autonomous branch of the UA based in Sierra Vista. Many claimed they were afraid of being connected to criticism of Lanning's behavior, lest they lose their jobs or find it difficult to get new ones.

"The level of paranoia on the campus is extreme," said one woman, who requested anonymity.

Last fall, two women filed sexual harassment charges against Lanning, also implicating the school's top administrator, Associate Vice President and Dean Randall "Randy" Groth, in winking at the discrimination. Cynthia McDermott, former Teacher Education Division chairwoman, filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. June Harris, former associate dean (the position Lanning now holds) and current associate professor, filed with both the EEOC and the UA's Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Office.

Groth referred inquiries about the charges to a UA attorney. Lanning didn't return phone calls.

Groth hired McDermott in August 2004; she and her husband moved from Los Angeles after she retired from the California university system.

"I made what I considered to be a very significant commitment to the institution," McDermott said. "When Dr. Groth asked me to establish the best teacher education program in the nation, I was more than happy to roll up my sleeves. The faculty was a great faculty. We were all philosophically aligned."

McDermott's EEOC filing alleged that Groth and Lanning regularly yelled at her and belittled her to others, made demands of her that weren't made of those in similar positions and gave her less money than male counterparts--all of which she attributed to "spite."

McDermott said Groth had treated her coolly following a humiliating 30-minute "walk" in September 2004. She said he yelled that she had been saying unspecified things, and that "anything anyone says in Cochise County will get back to him."

Lanning arrived as associate dean in October 2004. At one of the first meetings of division chairs, she said, he angrily accused her of being negative. He also called her names in private and showed her a cartoon on his computer that contained "inappropriate sexual content," she said.

Word later got out about a meeting she called to rally women against Lanning's alleged abuse, McDermott said, prompting him to give her a negative performance review. She said Groth and an administrator from the main UA campus appeared to ignore her requests for help.

Lanning then assigned her to teach two classes in Tucson on two different days--a 140-mile round trip from her home--and instructed her to teach a subject on which she had no expertise, McDermott alleged.

In the filing, McDermott stated that "Groth and Lanning made my position as division chair unbearable" as they attempted to marginalize her in various decision-making processes. Groth eventually removed her as chairwoman of the Teacher Education Division in a letter dated June 7, 2005.

When McDermott was removed, Harris said, faculty members in the division voted for Harris to take McDermott's spot until a replacement was found. Harris and others claimed it was highly unusual that Lanning ignored that recommendation to bring an outside professor--a man--out of retirement to fill the position. "They just passed me over," Harris said, adding that a well-qualified woman who was unanimously recommended by her colleagues to chair another division was also brushed aside in favor of a man.

Harris said that after she filed a complaint with the UA over the chairmanship, Lanning gave her a "punitive" teaching assignment at 6 p.m. on Fridays, which was unusual and inconvenient for her and her students. In response to Lanning's assignment, Francisco J. González, an investigator with the UA Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Office, wrote in a letter that he would be looking into whether or not this constituted an act of retaliation.

There has been a pattern of women receiving unequal treatment at UA South, Harris said, which she first noticed after she was hired in 1996. According to Harris, she started there as an untenured assistant professor, even though she had been a higher-ranking associate professor with tenure in Texas.

She said a male colleague, hired around the same time, was given tenure--even though he had never been given tenure before.

According to Angelica Engle, administrative associate with UA human resources, Harris was paid $79,040 as the associate dean for academic affairs before she stepped down in July 2004, while Lanning has a salary of $109,836. The current teacher education division chairman, James E. Duncan, is making $81,323, while McDermott was paid $70,173, Engle said.

When contacted by the Weekly, some women at UA South were scared to speak out. Some feared retribution by the well-connected Groth, while others were apprehensive about Lanning's alleged temper.

One woman said she feared for Lanning's all-female staff, should he suspect any of them of talking to the media, because "he doesn't seem capable of holding his temper."

Harris agreed. "Yes, he will (get angry), if he can identify his staff was involved in it," she said. "The man is vicious beyond belief. He doesn't have any restraints. It's like he does what he wants to do without any thoughts to the consequences.

"Wayne Lanning, to the best of my observation, hates women. He does not want to work with them; he does not want to deal with them. He forced his own secretary out."

Both Harris and McDermott said Lanning's former secretary had been so intimidated that she asked a co-worker about obtaining pepper spray. The story couldn't be verified.

However, not all female faculty members agreed that discrimination was taking place. Jackie Schmidt, an assistant clinical professor in the Teacher Education Division, said her dealings with Groth and Lanning have always been cordial.

"I have a very positive relationship with them, and it certainly hasn't included any improper words or behaviors," said Schmidt, who has taught at UA South since 1999. "I certainly do not believe any of these charges are true."

About Groth, she added: "You could say it's his university. He has done so much for it."

Both the EEOC and the UA refused to say how long their investigations would take.

In the meantime, Harris is preparing for retirement in March, while McDermott is getting settled back in Los Angeles after taking a full-time position with Antioch University.

"Had I been a good girl and kept my mouth shut, I would probably still be there, and everything would be fine," she said. "But I couldn't work there."

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