Pomona Settles Discrimination Lawsuit With Former Professor

A settlement has been reached between Pomona College and former Pomona Professor Alma Martinez, who filed a lawsuit against the college on Aug. 20, 2013, alleging that discrimination against Latinas and women on campus played an active role in the college's decision to deny her tenure and dismiss her employment.

Martinez's lawyers from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) filed a notice of settlement July 9. The case was deemed settled in a final status conference on July 10 and Pomona filed a Stipulation and Order document Sept. 8, indicating that both parties had made a joint agreement.

Martinez, who is now an artist in residence at University of La Verne's Theatre Arts department, declined to comment on the matter, writing in an email to TSL that the case has been resolved.

Pomona's Vice President and Chief Communications Officer Marylou Ferry also declined to comment on the specific terms of the settlement. Ferry also declined to comment whether the college released names of students who had given confidential reviews of Martinez during her tenure bid. Martinez's legal team had asked the school to reveal them so that it could examine the letters of students who had received bad grades in Martinez's classes, according to a March 23 article by the Diamond Bar-Walnut Patch. 

The article notes that the college had refused to give names of these 17 students in court papers filed on March 17 of this year.

In fall 2011, Pomona's theater department submitted a unanimous recommendation for Martinez to receive tenure, a standard procedure within the tenure process. This unanimous recommendation and the college's denial of the tenure points to discrimination, according to Martinez and MALDEF.

MALDEF also cited her history of achievement and departmental support as two key signs that discrimination affected this decision.

Martinez may best be known for her acting role in the 1981 movie Zoot Suit, but she also has a history of academic achievement. She received a Smithsonian research fellowship in 1999, a Fulbright Grant in 2006, and, while employed at Pomona, an Irving Grant in 2008.

Despite this record, however, Pomona denied Martinez’s tenure bid.

“It is disturbing when someone in your department does not get tenure,” said Professor Sherry Linnell, chair of the theater department. “Tenure is a sensitive issue; it is difficult on the person and it is difficult on the department—this is a person you've worked with.” 

Ferry said that the tenure process at Pomona is comprehensive and fair and that throughout the court case, the college has continued to assert that no discrimination played a part in its decision to deny her tenure.

“Even though this matter was resolved and this case was dismissed, Pomona has done a lot of good work and there are many people here committed to diversity and we would want to keep working on that and moving forward here,” Ferry said.

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