Columbia and Graciela Chichilnisky: A Legal History
Written by Bwog Staff
Meet Graciela Chichilnisky, an econ professor who was just awarded a $200,000 settlement from Columbia, which is roughly the amount of your tuition or any one product from Nussbaum & Wu. She has been suing Columbia on and off since 1990 (back when some of you Terrible 12s weren’t even born!), claiming gender discrimination and unequal pay, claims that were also previously settled in 1995 for $500,000. As a result of the earlier suit, Chichilnisky’s salary was raised from $60,000 to $110,000.
So then, in 2000, Chichilnisky stopped teaching math and started working exclusively in the econ. department because Columbia was terminating the United Nations Educational and Cultural Organization, which she had chaired. She found that her office in the Mathemetics building was hers no longer. “It’s almost impossible to believe this is happening,” she told Spec. “The destruction and removal of one’s office space, without notice is like a violation of one’s physical space.” Columbia repsponded that the school is crunched for space and that Chichilnisky wasn’t making full use of her math office.
She filed another lawsuit claiming that her pay was less than that of her male counterparts, and that in dismantling her office, Columbia “has retaliated against her by breaching the terms of the settlement.” In turn, Columbia filed counterclaims, charging that Chichilnisky had a secret second job — she was the founder and CEO of a multimillion dollar corporation — and that she never disclosed that to anyone in Low. According to CU, this was a breach of the previous settlement agreement.
Anyway, she circulated something called the “Columbia Injustice Petition,” which expressed outrage that Chichilnisky’s office was taken away from her, and also said that Columbia’s proposed solution of setting her up with an office in the Interchurch Center was a no-go. It was signed by 72 of her students and peers.
Which pretty much brings us up to speed to this June, when Chichilnisky sued Columbia for 11 million for breaching the terms of the previous settlement by denying her equal pay and the aforementioned office space. Of the ruling, the plaintiff said: “The exact number isn’t as important as the principle that it was a substantial amount of money that the university had to pay. And that has to do with who is right and who is wrong.”