Former dean sues OU administrators over removal, pay inequality

Suzette Grillot

The former dean of the College of International Studies at the University of Oklahoma -- who in January publicly called for OU President James Gallogly to resign -- filed a lawsuit Thursday in federal court alleging a First Amendment violation and wage discrimination.

The lawsuit was filed by OU international studies professor Suzette Grillot and Oklahoma City-based attorney Rand C. Eddy in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. It includes Gallogly, the OU Board of Regents, and provost Kyle Harper as defendants.

On Friday, Grillot held a press conference on campus where she detailed the reasons for the lawsuit. Grillot said she was removed from her position as dean and vice provost of the College of International Studies because she had publicly spoken out against the process that led to Gallogly's appointment and some of his actions as president. She alleges in the lawsuit that her removal constitutes a violation of her First Amendment right to free speech.

OU vice president for marketing and communications Lauren Brookey provided a statement that university administration had not yet seen the lawsuit but will be preparing a response.

"The University of Oklahoma has not been served with a copy of the complaint and has not had an opportunity to evaluate the allegations," the statement reads. "Once we receive the complaint, OU will file court documents to respond that we are confident illustrate the university acted appropriately and fulfilled its responsibility to treat all its employees fairly and equitably."

Harper and OU suggested Grillot's dismissal as dean was due to her resistance to planned cuts to international studies programs. The College of International Studies had its budget cut by almost 50 percent, including the elimination of the OU study center in Rio.

The lawsuit states that Harper met with Grillot in July and requested justification "for the continued existence of the College of International Studies" and for "short-term study abroad programs."

Gallogly has said in the past that there was a request made to all deans to detail their colleges' operations and areas where cuts could be made.

About a week later, the lawsuit states that a meeting between Grillot, Harper and Gallogly was held to discuss potential cuts. In the suit, Grillot alleges that Gallogly "used a raised voice" during this meeting while reprimanding her for making public information that should remain private.

"Defendant Gallogly made such statements as: 'You wouldn't even understand the budget even if I showed it to you. You are just an academic. You just study the world. I have worked around the world. My passport is twice as thick as yours," the lawsuit reads.

Harper also spoke to Grillot about using social media to voice her opinions, the lawsuit alleges. In November, Harper asked for a "self-evaluation" that was six days past due from Grillot, and she replied that she was concerned since she had never been formally evaluated "in her entire time as Dean of CIS and OU Vice Provost for International Programs."

Harper then informed Grillot of the planned cuts in January. The lawsuit states Grillot questioned the move and stated that the elimination of OU in Rio would be harmful to minorities.

The lawsuit also states Grillot lost her position with the President's Community Scholars study abroad programs and the title of William J. Crowe, Jr. Chair in Geopolitics.

At a student-organized Rally to End Racism event at the OU Student Union in January, which Gallogly attended and sat on the front row, the recently dismissed Grillot spoke during an open mic portion. Grillot ended her address by asking for Gallogly's immediate resignation.

The lawsuit alleges that following that event, Grillot's office computer was "confiscated without notice or cause; and done with the purpose of further intimidating, harassing and retaliating against her."

Grillot also alleges she received criticism from a member of the Board of Regents for her negative comments about the process to find a successor for the retiring President David Boren. Grillot was publicly critical of the private nature of the hiring process and that a list of finalists for the position was not made public.

In addition to the First Amendment violation claim, Grillot also alleges gender discrimination regarding her pay. The suit claims that over three years, male deans were paid more than Grillot for performing the same work.

It states Grillot informed Harper about this discrepancy, and that his actions to increase her pay in 2015 "tacitly acknowledged gender-based pay inequality."