Exclusive Interview with AAUW PlaintiffJuly 28, 2011
Lulu Sun recently won her Legal Advocacy Fund-supported lawsuit against the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. She accused the school of discriminating against her on the basis of gender, race, and national origin and of retaliating against her for complaining.
An English professor, Sun filed charges with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), which found probable cause for her case. After a public hearing, the hearing officer ordered the promotion of Sun to full professor, awarded her lost wages, and charged the university with a civil penalty. The full decision is available online.
While Sun’s case received a lot of press coverage after the announcement, today she is speaking out about the case for the first time since the decision was announced.
AAUW: What motivated you to pursue justice through this lawsuit?
Sun: I really had no choice or recourse. If I wanted to be treated fairly and non-discriminatorily, I had to take the legal route. The current administration would never promote me, regardless of the strength of my dossier. To quote a sentence from the MCAD decision, “The deck was stacked against complainant in her bid to become a full professor.”
AAUW: What is it like to continue teaching at UMass Dartmouth?
Sun: I have enjoyed and still enjoy teaching at UMass Dartmouth. I have good friends and colleagues there. Since the MCAD decision came out, almost everyone I have run into has congratulated me. I have received numerous e-mail messages from friends, colleagues, and strangers congratulating me. A number of people even wrote that they cried when they read the story in the newspapers.
My case will have an impact. It has never been about me only. I kept thinking about all the marginalized and disenfranchised women at the university — women who filed complaints internally and externally as well as women who did not file any complaints. Many of these women did not have a voice. Some were silenced, others gave up, and still others left the university. It is my hope that my case will help to make the university a fairer and more equitable institution.
Creating this type of institutional change is exactly the kind of impact AAUW hopes LAF cases can have in addition to helping plaintiffs obtain personal justice. While Sun has achieved this important victory, her fight is not over. The university has indicated that it will appeal the decision. Please consider donating to LAF to help Sun as she continues her nearly decade-long fight for justice and to help support other important cases.