By Lyndsey Hewitt in News
May 3, 2012
Recent comments on The Express’s website exclaim malcontent with pile of lawsuits against LHU in the past several years
Lawsuits aren’t typically something that come to mind when students think of the ideal college experience. Unfortunately, at Lock Haven University, it’s something many students have gotten used to as lawsuits have plagued the university in the last few years.Since 2007, 11 lawsuits have been filed involving Lock Haven University in some way. Whether it was against the university itself or involving a faculty member of the university.
While a large portion of them originates from LHU’s troubled athletic department, there are also quite a few from others, such as current and former faculty, as well as former students.
In 2007, George Garlick, an ex-swim coach, filed a lawsuit against the university and Sharon Taylor, who at the time was LHU’s athletic director. [Taylor has since been reassigned to a teaching position in the sports department.]
Garlick felt that his contract for the position as head swim coach was not going to be renewed because he was a man, and that Taylor wanted to see a woman in the position.
The incidents occurred in 2005, and have not been reported as settled as of 2012. Judge Richard Saxton threw out the case in 2011. The Lock Haven Express reported that Garlick requested a retrial because the judge, Saxton, had close ties with the university. He is an LHU graduate, has served as council and as president of the Foundation Board of Directors and has donated money to the university. These reasons cause Garlick to believe that the trial may have been unfair.
In 2008, Patricia Rudy, the head field hockey coach, filed suit against Lock Haven University and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) because she felt that male coaches at LHU and within PASSHE were making higher salaries than women. Eventually, she withdrew her complaint against PASSHE and only targeted LHU. The university settled with Rudy, giving her $200,000.
Joseph Patrick Guerriero, an assistant professor in the academic and counseling department, filed suit against the university in 2006 because he believed there was a sexually hostile environment at the university. The university eventually settled the suit for $47,500 and Guerriero moved to the athletic department.
The university allowed him to continue working within the department, but Guerriero claimed that he was given unrealistic duties and goals to meet, and was essentially set up to fail.
He filed suit in federal court in 2008, claiming that the university did not meet the terms of the previous settlement. He believed that the unrealistic assignments given were retaliation by the university for the previous suit he filed. Guerriero testified with his evidence, and a judge ruled that he would be awarded $60,000 about a year after initially filing the suit.
“I feel like lawsuits are a part of life now-a-days for educational institutions, due to human nature. My pride as an alumni has not faltered, but I haven’t read about everything [involving the suits] yet. It is really unfortunate the university’s money is being wasted on this and not going towards education,” Jesse Barnhart, an LHU alumnus, said.
Jennifer Cronover, a senior Communication student graduating in May, discusses how she feels about all of the lawsuits:
“I feel like it has disconnected me from the school. It has lowered a lot of students’ school spirit and connection to the university. Also, now that we don’t have a student government like the S.C.C. anymore, we don’t have any control or say over anything. It’s sad [the lawsuits], it makes me look down on the university because they can’t seem to keep it together,” she said.
The year of 2009 proved to be rough for the university.
Sharon Taylor filed a lawsuit in late 2009 against the group, PLOW (Preserve the Legacy of Wrestling) and a Williamsport sports radio station for nearly $350,000 in damages. PLOW is made up of various members of the community, boosters and alumni. Taylor felt the members of PLOW and members of the radio station conspired to harm her reputation. The suit was eventually thrown out in May 2011.
“My opinion is that Lock Haven University already has a very weak sense of pride among alumni as it is, and numerous lawsuits will only further the alienation,” Eric Scott, a political science major, said.
LHU lost a member of its Board of Trustee’s, Don Houser, who resigned due to all of the pending suits and the inaction by the university to discuss and prevent the suits. He stated in a Nov. 2009 article published by the Lock Haven Express that he was concerned, and that the fellow board members didn’t care how money is spent.
Also in 2009, Landis Wright, a former student and wrestler filed suit against the university, stating that the university tried to force him to wrestle when he was injured. He specifically targeted Sharon Taylor, Anthony Bonomo – former wrestling coach, and former LHU president, Keith Miller.
The university didn’t settle the suit until Oct. 2011, when Wright received $200,000 in damages.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. Many of the suits involve problems with gender and racial bias.
In early 2010, John Wilson, Jr., previous men’s basketball coach, sued the university and Sharon Taylor claiming he was treated differently because he was black.
The suit was dismissed last April, after a judge concluded that Wilson did not provide sufficient evidence to support his claim.
Yet another professor sued the university claiming racial discrimination in June 2010. Ramona Broomer, the director of costume design and stage makeup in the theater department, is reportedly asking for $150,000 in damages. It hasn’t been reported on whether or not the suit has been settled in court.
In July 2010, all of the lawsuits dealing with the athletics department were noticed nationally and picked up in a story by a major national newspaper, USA Today. The story focused on Sharon Taylor, calling her a “lightning rod for controversy and litigation.”
Sharon Taylor and other athletic directors filed suit against PASSHE in Aug. 2010 for what was reported as “millions in unpaid overtime work and lost pension contributions.”
A year later, Todd Barkley, one of the sports reporters that Taylor previously filed suit against for libel, accused her of defamation.
This spring semester alone, two more lawsuits have been filed against the university.
“As a university employee, I feel very frustrated by [the lawsuits],” Erin Kennedy, an LHU psychology professor, said.
In March 2012, a former student and member of the Physicians Assistant program (PA program) at LHU, Stephen Weil, filed suit in federal court. The PA program confirmed in 2009 that widespread cheating was going on within the department, with Weil being amongst those accused. Weil claimed that he did not cheat. He claims that his professors conspired to prevent him from using his rights to free speech, and ultimately prevented him from graduating because he attempted to voice his concerns on what was reported as “matters of ethics.”
The most recent lawsuit comes from political science professor, Dr. Andrew Musila. He filed suit in April against LHU, five administrators and the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) and one of its members, claiming that he was wrongly accused of violating the school’s sexual harassment policy.
In 2010, a female student claimed that, when she went to Musila’s office to retake a test, he inappropriately touched her, and then proceeded to file a complaint.
Musila, originally from Kenya, also claimed that Linda Koch, vice president of student affairs, is biased against employees of race and ethnicity.
Abram Williams, a sophomore entrepreneurship and marketing major, offers his opinion on all of the lawsuits that pertain to race and gender:
“Honestly, I really don’t care. I feel as if we have reached a point in our society where race and gender shouldn’t and doesn’t matter. The people that it does matter to are the ignorant and just ridiculous, I feel as the people who actually bring up these frivolous lawsuits are making more problems than there probably actually is. I don’t know all the exact details of each lawsuit, but I feel lawsuits about segregation make segregation. No matter if you are black, white, male, female, straight, gay, etc. We all are humans and that is all it comes down to. I don’t think anybody really segregates anymore unless you are some unknowing back woods bumpkin,” he said.
One online user called “Lillydae” commented on the most recent article about Musila on the Lock Haven Express’ website, “Lock Haven University should be renamed Lawsuit Haven University. The new motto ‘A small university with big lawsuits.’ The new mascot, an attorney.”
*Information about all lawsuits was compiled from separate stories reported by the Lock Haven Express over the past few years. In depth information about each lawsuit is available online at http://www.lockhaven.com.