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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Seminary loses discrimination ruling

A candidate for a 1995 faculty position at the Lutheran Seminary at Gettysburg (Pa.) was discriminated against because of her gender, said a regional office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a March 31 ruling.

Calling the decision an "unfortunate" reversal from an April 26, 1999, ruling in which "the EEOC found there was no basis for [the] charge," Norma Wood, seminary dean, said the school was "profoundly disappointed."

The new EEOC ruling says a review of the resumes of both the female candidate, Lauve Steenhuisen, a professor at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., and the successful candidate, a white male, "clearly shows that [Steenhuisen] was more qualified than the successful candidate," who "failed to meet the requirements and who had little relevant experience."

Steenhuisen's attorney,Victoria Toensing, said EEOC officials determined that Darrold Beekmann, who is retiring this summer as seminary president, hired the male candidate despite opposing votes by faculty and student committees. "We are disappointed that [seminary officials] have refused to discuss any settlement of this case and have been in denial about their sex discrimination," Toensing said.

John Spangler, Gettysburg's director of communications, said it was "erroneous to report that the seminary has been unresponsive." He said the president recommends a candidate, but the board of directors makes the final decision. "Neither the search committee nor the faculty at any time supported Dr. Steenhuisen's candidacy. In fact, Dr. Steenhuisen lacked a major qualification ... the master of divinity or master's in theology or its equivalent," Spangler said.

"[Gettysburg] hired a highly qualified teacher for the position sought by Dr. Steenhuisen," Wood said. "We believe [she] was treated fairly. ... We have done nothing wrong. We intend to continue to vigorously defend the seminary before the EEOC and, if necessary, in the courts."


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