By Paige Wearmouth
The Catholic University of America awarded over $1 million in damages to an ex-professor of the School of Architecture on Tuesday.
The award was given after a D.C. Superior Court jury ruled that university officials had tried to force the professor out of a wrongful termination lawsuit against the university by sending threatening emails.
Rauzia Ruhana Ally, an alumna of Catholic University, was terminated as a professor from the university’s School of Architecture and Planning in 2012 on the grounds of insubordination. The school claimed Ally failed to curb the costs of a project she was hired to lead even though she was told to do so. According to a report from the Washington Post, Ally accused the university of firing her, not because of insubordination, but because of her Muslim religion, Indian decent, and her gender.
While the jury threw out Ally’s claims of discrimination for lack of evidence, they did find the university guilty of attempting to coerce Ally to drop her lawsuit.
During the trial, Ally’s attorney, Mona Lyons, read an email to the jury that had been sent from Randall Ott, the dean of the university’s School of Architecture, to the Provost at the time.
“I am disappointed that we did not use the threat of prosecution to at least force some kind of ‘we both walk away from it silently’ agreement out of her,” Ott wrote in his email.
Ott was ordered to pay Ally a settlement of $15,000. Ally received at total of $1.01 million as a settlement from the university.
“Like most universities of our size, we carry insurance to manage the impact of such events,” said Elise Italiano, Executive Director of University Communications at Catholic University.
Frank Persico, the Vice President for University Relations and Chief of Staff at Catholic University, sent an email to the university’s faculty and staff to inform them of the situation.
“While we are pleased that the jury found no discrimination by the University or any of its officials, we are disappointed that they found actions taken around the time of the termination as defamatory and motivated by retaliation,” said Persico in his communication.
Persico ended his message by saying “it should be noted that this will have no impact on the operating budget for the next fiscal year.”