On September 6, 2016, the College of New Jersey agreed to pay $145,000 to a former Assistant Professor of Music Education who claimed that she was not reappointed because the Dean of the School of Fine Arts said that she had “been around the block a few times, in fact, more than a few times.”
In her suit, Susan Guerrini, then 62, said that School of Arts Dean John Laughton overruled the college’s Music Department Personnel Committee’s May 2011, unanimous recommendation to reappoint her. She claimed that Laughton said that he expected assistant professors to be “young” and “innovative” and “fresh blood” and that her age was the motivating factor behind the non-renewal decision.
The case is captioned Guerrini v. The College of New Jersey, Federal Case No. 13-cv-3974 and Guerrini’s original attorney was James M. Duttera of Moorestown. Case documents are on-line here. Of the settlement, Guerrini received $90,022.14 and the her attorneys received $54,977.86.
None of the Guerrini’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants. All that is known for sure is that TCNJ or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Guerrini $145,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants’ decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial–it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.