A former professor at the Atlanta campus of Savannah College of Art and Design claims she was denied promotions given to male faculty, according to a complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Avantika Bawa, who is of Asian Indian descent, also says she was fired after she pointed out the lack of diversity among the institution’s professors, according to the complaint.
Bawa received a right to sue letter from the federal agency Sept. 1. Her attorney, Mark Schwartz from Pennsylvania, is in Atlanta this week meeting with local attorneys. He said he plans to file a lawsuit in federal court.
The college declined to comment on Bawa’s claims or the possible lawsuit.
“We don’t think it’s appropriate to comment on the personal situation of a former faculty member,” spokeswoman Jennifer Bins said.
Bawa interviewed with SCAD in 1999 for positions in the foundations and paintings department of the Savannah campus. She was hired for the foundations department.
Foundations professors typically teach beginning courses and undergraduate students, Bawa said Tuesday. Painting faculty work with upperclassmen and graduate students making it a more prestigious position, she said.
Bawa said she applied for positions in the painting department but was not allowed to teach any painting courses until 2005. She was repeatedly denied transfers to that division even though she had support from the department chairman, according to the federal complaint.
Three male colleagues from the foundations department were moved to the painting department, she said.
Bawa said she received positive reviews and was sent to Atlanta in 2005 to help start the new campus. She became the graduate coordinator of painting in 2007 and started the fine arts visiting artist program in 2008, according to federal documents.
In the fall of 2008, Bawa said the academic director suggested she might move to the painting department. Around that time, Bawa met with him to discuss concerns about the lack of diversity among faculty members.
Shortly thereafter, Bawa said, the college began its retaliation.
On Nov. 17, the academic director told Bawa that no one wanted her in the painting department, according to the complaint.
Bawa was demoted in February and the graduate coordinator and coordinator of the visiting artist program positions were re-assigned.
She was fired in June.
“They tormented me and accused me of not being a team player,” Bawa said in an interview. “To be told I’m not good enough because I questioned diversity is wrong.”
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