Harassment at CSUN Cited : Suit Says 2 Lost Jobs Over Filing of Complaint

Times Staff Writer

Two former lecturers in the Cal State Northridge geography department have filed suit against the school, saying they were unfairly fired after complaining last spring about a professor who admitted exposing himself to them as a "locker-room prank."

Christine M. Rodrigue and Carolyn McGovern-Bowen said that Prof. Darrick Danta, 33, repeatedly exposed himself inside university offices during 1986, when the three were lecturers in the geography department, according to the lawsuit filed Sept. 14 in San Fernando Superior Court.

Rodrigue and McGovern-Bowen, who attended graduate school at CSUN with Danta in the early 1980s, are seeking an undisclosed amount of damages from the school, as well as tenured teaching positions, the suit said. The lawsuit names Danta, geography department Chairman I-Shou Wang and the university as defendants in the case.

The women's suit alleges that they were fired July 6 because of a sexual-harassment complaint they filed against Danta in April, as well as a grievance they filed last fall over excessive workloads.

Rodrigue, 35, had been a lecturer in the department for 8 1/2 years and McGovern-Bowen, 38, had lectured there for five years years, the suit said. Both women now work as lecturers in CSUN's urban studies department.

University officials will not comment on the lawsuit or on why the women were fired from their geography department jobs, a school spokeswoman said.

But Danta said in an interview Monday that he exposed himself to the women "several times" in the fall of 1986.

"It was on campus, both in my office and in their office; but there was not a sexual thing involved," said Danta, who is married. "It was just exposure that was intended as a prank . . . locker-room antics."

Danta, who also admitted the incidents to a university affirmative-action committee that reviewed the incident in May, said: "I don't think I have a sexual problem." He said he had not exposed himself to anyone before or since the incidents involving the two women. "I don't own a raincoat," he said.

Jeanette Mann, head of the school's affirmative-action programs and one of three people who conducted an investigation into the sexual-harassment allegations, said that her committee agreed that the incidents did not warrant disciplinary action, which could have ranged from a one-day suspension to firing.

"I obviously think it's serious, but not serious enough to warrant disciplinary action," Mann said.

A month after the women were fired, Danta was promoted to professor, school officials said. But geography department officials who recommended that Danta be hired did not know about the sexual-harassment allegations or about Danta's confession because the report by the affirmative-action committee is confidential, Mann said.

The suit has sparked a second investigation into the incident by Earl Weiss, special assistant to university President James Cleary, school officials said. That investigation probably will be concluded next week, officials said.

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