Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Penn State May Have Gotten Off Easy in the Jen Harris Case

While we wait for the Pennsylvania General Assembly to pass a new Right-To-Know law which covers Penn State and the other state-related public universities, we can can avail ourselves of the Stairs Report to try to figure out how Penn State is spending money. The latest report, which covers the 2006-2007 fiscal year, was released by the state this month.

Last February, Jen Harris settled a discrimination suit against Penn State, Rene Portland, and Tim Curley. Harris had claimed that Portland had discriminated against her while she was a Lady Lion basketball player based on the belief that she, Harris, was a lesbian. The big unanswered question at the time was, how much did the settlement cost the University? As I noted last summer, the Stairs Reports don't give enough information to answer the question, but it does provide sufficient information to provide an upper bound on the settlement amount. The reports contain the total legal expenses for the University and the amount paid to Penn State's law firm McQuade-Blasko. The difference between these amounts should be the sum of any damage awards, settlement amounts,court costs, and legal fees that Penn State had to pay in the given fiscal year. The following table contains these numbers for fiscal years 94-95 through 06-07. The same information is shown graphically below it. I looked at the previous years legals expenses in some detail last year.

Fiscal Year Att. Fees Uncat. Total
94-95 $2,379,547 $0 $2,379,547
95-96 $2,698,531 $1,500,766 $4,199,297
96-97 $2,930,614 $956,353 $3,886,967
97-98 $3,041,353 $104,159 $3,145,512
98-99 $3,682,431 $5,158,008 $8,840,439
99-00 $3,506,531 $1,048,853 $4,555,384
00-01 $3,257,627 $494,575 $3,752,202
01-02 $3,016,559 $130,937 $3,147,496
02-03 $3,356,661 $1,847,318 $5,203,979
03-04 $2,794,878 $247,640 $3,042,518
04-05 $3,078,122 $272,207 $3,350,329
05-06 $2,811,812 $2,699,730 $5,511,542
06-07 $2,885,486 $1,604,961 $4,490,447

Penn State Legal Exp.

Penn State's uncategorized legal expenses for the last fiscal year were $1,604,961, which is the largest possible amount which Harris and her lawyers were paid. Of course, it would be reasonable to assume that Penn State incurred other legal expenses last year. Hence the Harris settlement would have been less than this. (This analysis does not take into account any monies which Portland or Curley had to pay personally.) Hence it looks like Penn State got off easy in this case. Last year UC Berkeley had to pay its former woman's swimming coach Karen Moe Humphreys $3.5 millilon in a discrimination settlement and, in a similar case, California State University at Fresno was ordered by a jury to pay its woman's volleyball coach $6 million.

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