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Civic Skinny

Sabbatical: diction in Scandinavian songs; and a losing lawyer shows some balls

1/2/2013

Hell hath no fury like a lawyer scorned. The Iowa Supreme Court last week ruled — unanimously — that a Fort Dodge dentist did not unlawfully discriminate against his dental assistant when he fired her because his wife felt the attractive younger woman posed a threat to their marriage.

There was nothing more than occasional mild flirting going on between James Knight and Melissa Nelson, his dental assistant of more than 10 years, according to the court record, and there was no allegation of sexual harassment. But the dentist’s wife, in particular, feared an affair would develop if the two continued to work together, even though both were married with children. So on Jan. 4, 2010, the dentist, accompanied by his minister, called in his assistant and fired her, giving her a month’s pay.

She cried.

Then she sued.

Judge Thomas Bice of the district court in Webster County ruled in favor of the dentist on summary judgment.

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Nelson then appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court, where she was represented by Paige Fiedler and Emily McCarty of Fiedler and Timmer in Urbandale. After the 16-page, carefully reasoned and precedent-filled opinion by Justice Ed Mansfield was posted, the following appeared on Fiedler’s Facebook page:

“This cannot be what justice looks like in 2012,” it began.

“Today, the all-male Iowa Supreme Court held that it is not sex discrimination for a male boss to fire a female employee because he views her ‘as an irresistible attraction.’ I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. I am so angry I am shaking. The boss’ wife was jealous, so he AND HIS PASTOR fired my client so that he would no longer be tempted by her sexual attractiveness. He told my client’s husband that, although she was the best dental assistant he’d ever had and had worked for him over 10 years, he was scared he would try to have an affair with her someday. She was 20 years younger and was horrified at the very thought. To prove illegal discrimination, all I need to prove is that gender was ONE of the factors motivating the boss. He admitted he is heterosexual and would not have wanted my client if she had been male. Yet my client did not even get a trial!

“The message these judges have sent to Iowa women is this: Men cannot be held responsible for their sexual desires or any actions they take on account of them. YOU are the one responsible for monitoring and controlling your boss’ sexual desires. If they get out of hand, then you can lawfully be fired.                

“Can you imagine how helpful it might have been for these men to have the perspective of even one justice with a vagina?”                

Uh…                

There might not be a justice with a vagina, but there is a lawyer with balls. …             

Your tax dollars at work:                

The Board of Regents last month approved sabbaticals for 125 faculty members in the coming academic year — 65 from the University of Iowa, 45 from Iowa State University and 15 from the University of Northern Iowa. That’s the highest number in four years. The sabbaticals generally are for one semester with pay. Among them at the University of Iowa:               

Corey Creekmur, an associate professor of English at the University of Iowa (fiscal 2012 salary: $79,300), will complete his book on “the first full-length study of the representation of the Britsh Raj in popular Indian cinema.”                

Armando Duarte, a professor of dance ($71,500), will “write a book on the choreographic aspects of the renowned and culturally important samba processions of Brazil.”                

Michael Moore, an associate professor of history ($70,200), is writing a book that “explores the gruesome posthumous trial of Pope Formosus in 897.”               

Roland Racevskis, a professor of French and Italian ($92,500), “will prepare a book manuscript on a largely unexplored topic, the significance of material environments for the human experience in works of seventeenth-century French literature. The focus throughout the book is on the urgent question of humanity’s relationship to the nonhuman world….”                

Carol Severino, a professor of rhetoric ($100,744), “will pursue second language writing research,” in which she will “identify and classify word choice errors and their sources in drafts submitted by Chinese students whom she will also interview.” She will also “write a follow-up travel essay to two previous pieces about her encounters with Quichua people and language in Ecuador, focusing on communication failure from word-choice error.”                

David Stern, a professor of philosophy ($99,562), is taking a full year to write two books. One is “Wittgenstein’s Lectures, Cambridge 1930-1933, From the Notes of G. E. Moore.” It “will make available the text of verbatim notes taken by a distinguished philosopher who attended Wittgenstein’s lectures during a period in which his views were rapidly changing.” The other book, in case you were wondering, is “Wittgenstein in the 1930s.”                

Katherine Tachau, professor of history ($105,177), will spend the spring semester completing “the research and writing of a book concerning the interaction of painters and academics in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Paris.”                

At Iowa State University:                

Ana-Paula Correia, associate professor of education ($69,064), will “spend her assignment at the Portuguese Open University in Lisbon, examining online learning in collectivist cultures through the Community of Inquiry framework.”                

Barbara Haas, associate professor ($57,222), will spend the fall semester in St. Petersburg, Russia, “where she will study the financial, material and environmental factors affecting the Neva River delta.” Haas is an associate professor of English.                

Sunghyun Kang, an associate professor of graphic design ($76,004), “will study cultural influences in website design in Korea.” She will “evaluate users’ activities, emotions, motivations and cognition.”                

Stephen Kim, a professor of marketing ($174,423), will “travel to Korea, where he will investigate the differences in automobile marketing between Korea and the U.S.”                

John W. Monroe, associate professor of history ($65,591), will complete “a substantial portion of his history of the early 20th century reception of African sculpture in France.”                

Donald Simonson, professor of music ($65,791), “will work in several locations during his assignment, including Denmark and Norway, where he will research, write, and compile the Norwegian section of the book, ‘Scandinavian Song: A Guide to Diction and Repertoire.’ ”                

Maximilian Viatori, associate professor of anthropology ($65,758), will travel to Ecuador and Germany, “where he will analyze public discourses of national unification that emerged during Ecuador’s border disputes with Peru between 1941 and 1998.”                

At the University of Northern Iowa:                

Imam Alam, an associate professor of economics ($85,560), will work on “Gender Differences in Pay of Working Children in Bangladesh: An Empirical Study.” He will “present descriptive statistics and estimate earnings equations for a pooled sample using regression analysis for children who perform market work.”                

Kenneth Atkinson, associate professor of history ($64,642), “will write the first complete study of the life and times of the Roman Empress Galla Placidia (388-450 C.E.).”                

Angeleita Floyd, professor of music ($85,307), will focus on documenting the life in music and the achievements of “the eminent British flutist, Geoffrey Gilbert (1914-1989).” She will look at “Gilbert’s own metamorphosis from wooden flute to silver flute that took place in the late 1930s and early 1940s.”                

Tyler O’Brien, associate professor of sociology, anthropology and criminology ($76,553), will go to Argentina and “will continue to explore the anthropological subject of an ancient cultural practice called artificial cranial deformation.” He will “explain, analyze and investigate ACD from a holistic, comparative and integrated anthropological perspective.”                

Meantime, teachers who went on sabbatical last fiscal year have filed their reports. Among them, at the University of Iowa:                

Charlotte Adams, associate professor of dance ($68,499), “took an advanced level yoga teaching certification course in Tucson.”                

Constance Berman, professor of history ($109,500), “completed ‘The White Nuns: Cistercian Abbeys for Women and their Property in Medieval Europe.’ ” She also drafted ‘The Account Book of Blanchef Castile, Queen of France.’                

Kimberley Marra, professor of theatre arts ($91,500), “drafted a chapter of her book ‘Fashioning the Thoroughbred Ideal: Show Women and Show Horses on New York Stages, 1865-1930.’ ” The book is “a study of how human interactions with horses both empowered women and enduringly shaped dominant race, class, gender, and sexual ideologies when women entered the sport of riding in large numbers for the first time in the United States….”                

John Nelson, professor of political science ($107,760), “advanced four related studies of popular politics in the ads, news, and entertainments that ordinary people experience in everyday life. He compared politics in westerns, vampire movies, and neo-noir films.” …                

Back to that lawsuit. “Dr. Knight also recalls that after Nelson allegedly made a statement regarding infrequency in her sex life, he responded to her, ‘That’s like having a Lamborghini in the garage and never driving it.’ ”…                

Skinny joins those mourning the upbeat Ray Pugh and the merely marvelous Joan Bunke. Each made a difference in central Iowa. CV

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