Art Professor Claims Discrimination, Retaliation at SUNY Binghamton –

A female art history professor’s lawsuit against the State University of New York at Binghamton, claiming gender discrimination and retaliation, can move forward in court, a federal judge has ruled. Courthouse News first reported the ruling.

The professor, Karen Barzman, alleges in her suit that she suffered harassment and exclusion from faculty meetings and professional training after reporting her colleague John Tagg (also an art history professor) for allegedly harassing her. According to the suit, Barzman and Tagg previously had a tumultuous domestic relationship, which, following allegations of physical and emotional abuse, ended in 2005.

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Barzman was hired as a professor in the art history department in Harpur College at SUNY Binghamton in 1999—a position she held until she felt forced to retire in August 2022, according to court documents.

Barzman and Tagg were romantically involved from September 1996 through May 2005. Barzman had been employed at Cornell University until Tagg, who holds the title of distinguished professor in Binghamton’s art history department, arranged for her to be hired there.

Once she joined the faculty, however, Barzman claims that Tagg began demeaning and patronizing her and encouraged their colleagues to do the same. After ending their romantic relationship, she alleges the workplace harassment increased from both Tagg and junior colleagues who felt obligated to him as chair of the art history department. Additionally, court documents state that Anne McCall, the dean of Harpur College from 2013 to 2016, “warned Barzman that her Art History colleagues found it ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘unfair’ when she spoke of Tagg’s history of domestic abuse and connected it with Tagg’s workplace conduct.”

Alleged efforts to inform the university administration, including a request to transfer departments, went unheeded, Barzman said in the suit. Despite also requesting assistance from her union in July 2021, Barzman “accepted an arrangement which allowed her to be paid … an additional year’s salary, with no departmental responsibilities other than completion of her two remaining doctoral students, in exchange for her retirement effective August 2022,” according to court documents.

SUNY Binghamton did not immediately respond to ARTnews’s request for comment.

In considering Tagg’s history of abuse as well as Barzman’s repeated attempts “on numerous occasions, to be moved to a different department,” the judge dismissed SUNY Binghamton’s motion to dismiss the case, citing that “Binghamton University’s response was ‘clearly unreasonable’ under the circumstances and amounted to deliberate indifference.”

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