Ex-law professor sued U of I over alleged race, gender discrimination. They just settled

A former University of Idaho professor has reached a $750,000 settlement with the university, its law school and two former deans for alleged discrimination and harassment based on race and gender.

Shaakirrah Sanders, a Black, female law professor, sued the university in federal court in June 2019, alleging she was retaliated against by two white, male superiors at the school and endured “a culture of racism and sexism” that began three years after she was hired as a tenure-track associate professor in 2011.

The settlement, approved by U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill on Wednesday, includes a $750,000 payment in damages and attorneys’ fees to Sanders.

It also requires the law school to propose a new rule that would ban video and audio recording of faculty, staff and students. Sanders did not immediately return calls and emails from the Idaho Statesman on Thursday seeking comment. But in a news release sent through her attorneys, she said the case’s resolution gives her space to heal.

The settlement enabled her “to avoid the continued emotional and spiritual harms that became part of this lawsuit” largely perpetuated by a former interim dean, Sanders said in the news release.

The lawsuit said that Sanders faced “numerous discriminatory and retaliatory acts” mainly by Mark Adams, dean of the law school from 2014 to 2018, and by Jerrold Long, interim dean of the law school from 2018 to 2021. According to the lawsuit, Adams began a pattern of differing terms and conditions of her employment, and when she raised concerns, he and the law school started retaliating against her.

A spokesperson for the university told the Statesman by email that the settlement is a business decision made with the best interests of the U of I, its students and the state of Idaho in mind.

“Litigation costs money and time as well as creates the potential for ongoing distraction to employees and students,” spokesperson Jodi Walker said. “We wish professor Sanders the best in her future endeavors.”

Sanders left the U of I and joined the Pennsylvania State University law school in 2022. According to her bio, she was the first African-American descendant of slaves to reach the rank of full professor at U of I.

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