College, chair accused of employment discrimination


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Former assistant professor Kelly Page filed lawsuits against the college and Philippe Ravanas, chair of the Business & Entrepreneurship Department, on Feb. 13, alleging employment discrimination.

By Campus Editor

Philippe Ravanas, chair of the Business & Entrepreneurship Department, and the college are defending discrimination charges brought by a professor whose employment at the college was terminated after the Spring 2014 Semester.

Kelly Page, a former assistant professor in the former Arts, Entertainment & Media Management Department, filed a lawsuit against the college and Ravanas in federal court on Feb. 13. The allegations against the college include gender discrimination, national origin discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII, a federal law that prohibits discrimination against employees because of sex, race, color, national origin and religion. Ravanas, who is accused of intentional interference with Page’s employment contract with the college, is being defended by the college’s legal counsel.

Patricia Bergeson, vice president of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, declined comment in an email except to deny Page’s allegations and state that the college will defend the lawsuit “vigorously.”

In the complaint, Page, an Australian, alleged that “Ravanas treated everyone who was not like him with overt hostility and discrimination, including women and all non-white and/or non-American employees.”

Page alleges that Ravanas would yell at, physically intimidate, threaten and demean her—which Ravanas and the college denied.

Both parties acknowledge a workplace dispute occurred approximately two months after Page started at the college in August 2013, when Ravanas entered her office.

 “Ravanas was upset with the Plaintiff … and came into her office, shut the door, yelled at and threatened her, and then blocked the door and refused to allow her to leave the office when she tried,” the complaint alleged of the incident. “Defendant Ravanas did not behave in this threatening and hostile manner toward the male and white American employees under his supervision,” the complaint stated.  

While admitting that a dispute occurred behind closed doors, the college and Ravanas denied allegations that he yelled at and threatened her or treated male and white American employees differently.

Page also alleged that she notified then Associate Dean of the School of Fine & Performing Arts Matthew Shenoda of the incident the following day, claiming he did not address the situation. The college and Ravanas agreed she complained to Shenoda about the situation but denied that actions were not taken to address the situation.

The complaint alleged that her conflicts with Ravanas continued through February 2014, when she submitted a written complaint of gender and national origin discrimination to Patricia Olalde, director of Human Resources. Three days later, Page received a letter from Louise Love, then vice president of Academic Affairs and interim provost, terminating Page’s employment due to her conflicts with Ravanas, according to the complaint.

“The college has determined that there is not a productive alignment between your interests and that of the Arts, Entertainment and Media Management Department,” Love said in the letter. “The conflicts you have had with the department chair and others in the department are indicative of this misalignment. This decision is not a reflection on your performance in the classroom or accomplishments as a scholar.”

The college’s response states that Love’s decision to terminate Page’s employment was made prior to learning of her complaint to Olalde.

According to the complaint, Page filed discrimination charges against Columbia with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on April 17, 2014, alleging gender and national origin discrimination and retaliation, and received a Notice of Right to Sue on Dec. 2, 2014. 

An employment discrimination lawsuit filed in 2012 by Joseph Roberts, a former professor in the former AEMM Department, against Ravanas and the college was dismissed in federal court on April 21.

Both Page and Ravanas were contacted for comment, which Page declined and to which Ravanas did not respond, as of press time.