A former Oberlin dance professor filed a lawsuit against the College on Sept. 3 alleging discrimination in hiring for being a straight, white, married woman from the Midwest, as well as workplace retaliation. The College has not yet responded to these allegations.
Former Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance Alice Blumenfeld worked at Oberlin from 2018–2020. In the summer of 2019, Blumenfeld learned that the College planned to terminate her position and instate a tenure-track position in its stead. Blumenfeld was one of four candidates considered for this role and was not hired.
“While Ms. Blumenfeld was more qualified for the tenure-track position than the individual Oberlin hired, she failed to meet the identity-based qualifications that the Defendants required, which included qualifications based upon race, skin color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, and ancestry,” the initial complaint alleges.
Blumenfeld believes she was discriminated against in part because of a conversation she had with Professor Ann Cooper Albright, chair of the Dance department and then-chair of the search committee for the tenure-track position. The complaint claims that Cooper Albright invited Blumenfeld to her home and suggested that Blumenfeld start looking for a new position, telling her, “We can’t just hire another white woman from the Midwest with a husband.”
The lawsuit is based on the discrimination of some historically non-marginalized identities, such as whiteness and heterosexuality. Still, Michael T. Schroth, one of Blumenfeld’s attorneys, says that this case must be judged apart from these contexts.
“The Ohio Civil Rights Act strictly prohibits discrimination based upon race, color, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, or a person’s ancestry during the hiring process — what happened to Alice in this instance is an occurrence of a violation of the Civil Rights Act,” Schroth said. “There’s a very important discussion that is occurring across our country right now when it comes to racial discrimination. The way that we view this case is that it should be held on its own merits. In that regard, the larger discussion, we don’t feel should have an impact on this case at all.”
In her complaint, Blumenfeld claims that she reported Albright’s discriminatory practices to Rebecca Mosely, the director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and Title IX coordinator. Blumenfeld alleges that Mosley informed both Albright and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences David Kamitsuka of her complaint, despite agreeing to protect Blumenfeld’s anonymity.
When Albright found out about the complaint, Blumenfeld claims that Albright stopped talking to her, quit inviting her to Dance department meetings and lunches, and engaged in other retaliatory behavior.
Blumenfeld’s complaint was filed in the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas. The College, Albright, and Mosely have 28 days to respond from the initial filing on Sept. 3.
The College denied request for comment. Albright and Mosely have not responded to requests for comment.