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Columbia and Graciela Chichilnisky: A Legal History

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.”

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  • Joyce says:

    @Joyce I’m pretty disgusted at most of these posts. If she were a man, would you be commenting on how ugly she is? This is about as sexist as this gets!

  • Sophia Lamar? says:

    @Sophia Lamar? Wow. For a moment, before reading the actual post, I thought maybe this woman was transgendered, and the photos were a “before and after” sequence.

    After reading the story, I like my initial approach better.

  • this prof is says:

    @this prof is someone’s mom. try a little decency.

  • dear alum... says:

    @dear alum... padma desai and alessandra cassella, the two women (aside from chichilnisky) to have tenure in the econ department until 2003-2004, consistently earned the two lowest salaries of all tenured professors (and continue to do so). this is including later hires, younger hires, less published hires, all of whom were male until 2003-2004. so the econ department provides one of MANY examples of women faculty members consistently being paid less than the males. and if you’re looking for another case in which a woman got mad enough to sue, check out Joy Hirsch.
    if you’re trying to suggest Columbia doesn’t have problems with both the ratio of male to female faculty ACROSS THE UNIVERSITY, not just within specific departments, look at the American Association of University Professors’ recent report on gender discrimination within the Ivy League from 2006.

    1. Alum says:

      @Alum All I did was point out a factual error in your earlier post. You said there were only three women with tenure in the department, and I pointed out that there are at least six. That was the extent of my comment. I didn’t make any of the other claims you attribute to me, and am not “trying to suggest” any of them either.

      I have no information about what the professors in that department earn. I’m not sure how you do or why you feel it is appropriate to reveal this (presumably confidential) information to the world.

      I do have one other comment: as far as I know, Casella was the most recent member of the department promoted to full professor from within. It is not surprising that she would make less money than those who are more senior. It is also quite common for external hires — even those who arrive as full professors but were junior faculty at their old jobs — to be paid more than a newly-promoted member who had stayed put. Such incentives are what lead people to change jobs. That men Columbia has hired since 2003-2004 make more than Prof. Casella does not imply discrimination. What might would be if they also make more than Profs. Currie, Ng and Schmitt-Grohe, after adjusting for everyone’s respective level of experience and degree of accomplishment. Do they?

    2. Bollocks says:

      @Bollocks are you actually trying to tell me that Padma Desai and co. are paid less because they are women?

      No, the reason Padma is probably paid less is because they probably were forced to give her a job to retain Jagdish. That’s not to say she’s a bad professor, just probably surplus to Columbia’s requirements.

      1. Hey now says:

        @Hey now Watch it with the Desai bashing. She’s been one of my favorite professors at the university so far, and she’s sharper than you think. Possibly not the world’s most exciting lecturer, but she has an unsurpassed understanding of transition economies, and is by all means an expert in her own right.

        My guess is, if she is really paid “less” than the norm, it’s because her contract was negotiated a long time ago. If she hasn’t renegotiated for cost of living increases, as often happens when people are perfectly happy with their salaries, she might make less than someone who came on board only recently.

        This whole argument is nonsense, anyway. You can’t prove any kind of discrimination with a sample of a half dozen people, but New York’s employment discrimination laws are quite liberal, so the mere appearance of discrepancy, however justified, is perhaps reason enough to settle this kind of whining.

      2. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous I took two classes with Susan Elmes. She is a nice woman, she is not the head of the econ. department.

      3. Alum says:

        @Alum Susan Elmes is not “the head of the Economics dept”, even if you write it in all caps. She isn’t even a tenure-track member of the faculty. She is a lecturer and the department’s director of undergraduate studies. That’s an important position, but not nearly as important as being chair.

        As I mentioned in post #34, the real chair is Janet Currie. That the chair is a woman supports (without proving) your argument about who has power in the department, but it undercuts (without disproving) your argument about who is a twerp.

  • Alum says:

    @Alum “Columbia was terminating the United Nations Educational and Cultural Organization, which she had chaired.”

    As its name suggests, UNESCO is a program of the UN, not Columbia. Columbia couldn’t terminate UNESCO even if it wanted to. What actually happened was that Columbia terminated a program which UNESCO funded and which Prof. Chichilnisky (who is the UNESCO Professor of Resource Management) directed.

  • well... says:

    @well... anybody ever have one of the other two tenured profs in the econ department? they’re not so hot either. padma desai and alessandra cassella have been the 2 lowest paid people in the econ department every year since 1996.

    1. Alum says:

      @Alum There are about 25 tenured professors in the department. Even if you were referring only to women, you forgot Janet Currie (the department chair) and Serena Ng. There’s also Stephanie Schmitt-Grohe, a new senior hire from Duke.

      Lena Edlund may recently have earned tenure, too; if not, it’s surely just a matter of time.

  • I had her says:

    @I had her She was an awful, awful teacher. She made the TA do a ridiculous amount of busy work and never really taught us anything.

    I think she’s married to a professor in Environmental Science. Look into it, BWOG!

  • huh? says:

    @huh? “Columbia was terminating the United Nations Educational and Cultural Organization, which she had chaired”

    good god, columbia killed unesco? who knew it was so powerful and sinister?

    1. hahaha says:

      @hahaha HAHAHAHA

  • great... says:

    @great... So this is what our tuition money is going towards? Great.

    1. well... says:

      @well... because of her, south lawn will sadly only be re-sodded 4 times this year (instead of our normal 15).

  • P.S. says:


  • umm says:

    @umm BWOG, way to find a photo of cross-dressed Chappelle.

  • wow says:

    @wow she’s bitching that her SECOND office was taking away 9assumeg she already had one for the econ dept.)? Really? How about, you know, everyone else who can’t get space at all, much less a second office?!

  • students says:

    @students signed her petition? gee, not sketchy at all.

  • milton says:

    @milton her office was taken away… was her stapler taken too? :-)

  • ewwww says:

    @ewwww YUCK. just look at her face. that woman needs to spend less money on plastic surgery and stop complaining.

  • !!!!!!! says:

    @!!!!!!! Can only wait to see what she sues Columbia for when she’s finally terminated…

    btw, feel free to send her an email (see above link). It’s public information from her website, therefore *NOT* against BOWG policy.

  • aghast says:

    @aghast jiminy crickets that woman is ugly!

  • Apple Nifty says:

    @Apple Nifty Tracing the money, I guess you could say that is the true face of Columbia.

  • ugh says:

    @ugh stupid woman. Is this what happens in an economic slowdown? Sue Columbia to pay your plastic surgeon?

    I’ve never heard of her before, anyone been taught by her?

    1. not too stupid says:

      @not too stupid she only wrote the kyoto protocols

      1. i think says:

        @i think you just proved #12’s point.

        can I call her ‘Chinchilla’?

  • well... says:

    @well... i think we know what what she did with the money… those lips are out of control.

  • i assumed says:

    @i assumed MTF?

  • yikes says:

    @yikes holy collagen injections and cheek implants!

  • ... says:

    @... what a bitch!

  • ... says:

    @... good lord.

  • confused says:

    @confused I don’t understand why she wants the money.

  • man says:

    @man FACT: Women are evil.

    1. yes says:

      @yes hahahahaha

      so true

  • wtf says:

    @wtf another example of how much the columbia math department sucks…

  • I wonder says:

    @I wonder what real feminists think about the fact that their movement has turned into an excuse to sue your employer at any and every opportunity on the grounds of sexism…

  • ugh says:

    @ugh too many collagen injections and too many face lifts.

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