Kristin Naca, a former professor in the English department, motioned to amend her lawsuit against Macalester College on February 3 by adding President Brian Rosenberg as an individual defendant. On February 10, Magistrate Judge Steven E. Rau denied the amendment. This Friday morning, lawyers representing the college will move to have the entire suit dismissed. (Editor’s note: The Mac Weekly goes to print on Wednesday nights.)
Naca, who was fired in September 2015, filed her initial suit against Macalester last October, alleging “discriminatory and retaliatory termination” on the basis of “her systemic Valley Fever, her sincere practice of the religion of Santería, sex, sexual orientation, and her Filipina and Puerto Rican ancestry and national origin.”
In a February 2016 hearing before a Minnesota state unemployment judge, Director of Employment Bob Graf stated that Naca was terminated for “failing to maintain ethical boundaries with a student,” referencing an allegedly inappropriate relationship between Naca and a Macalester graduate. However, in both the initial suit and the recent amendment, Naca states that the student, referred to as “Jane Doe,” was actually an alumna at the time of their relationship, and that no college policy prohibits faculty-alumni relationships.
A statement from the college given to The Mac Weekly by Rosenberg claimed that Naca was fired “as the result of a serious violation of the college’s policies relating to Title IX protections, following a complaint about her conduct with a student.” The statement, part of which was printed in The Mac Weekly on December 9, alleges that Naca attempted to “intimidate and retaliate against the survivor who brought forward the complaint.”
Naca cited this statement in her February 3 motion to argue that Rosenberg defamed her and that he “stated falsely that Jane Doe was a victim and survivor of a sexual assault” by Naca. The suit alleges that Rosenberg “made the statement with reckless or conscious disregard of the statement’s truth or falsity.” The suit claims that Rosenberg knew of a letter from Jane Doe to Naca that read:
“Dear Naca, Thank you for mentoring me. You taught me how to write a poem. You taught me how to walk through fire and I will always be grateful for that. I never intended for you to lose your job. I never alleged sexual assault. I never wanted to cause you suffering.”
In the suit, Naca outlines how the circumstances leading up to her dismissal have affected her life outside of academia as well. She alleges that her position as a teacher in the Minnesota Prison Writers Workshop, which she began after her time at Macalester, was ended prematurely “as a direct result consequence of Rosenberg’s communications” to The Mac Weekly. The suit also argues that Rosenberg’s statement has “severely damaged [Naca’s] ability to obtain future contracts including and beyond her work as a college professor, poet, and professor of poetry.”
On Friday morning, Macalester will bring a motion to dismiss the case to Judge Patrick J. Schiltz. In its petition, the college will name various reasons to dismiss certain parts of the case or the entire case. If Macalester succeeds, Naca told the The Mac Weekly in an interview that she intends to appeal the case to the United States 8th Circuit Court.
“I hope that our case will be treated fairly and we will be allowed to continue the case with the complaint as it’s written,” Naca said.
Naca also emphasized her belief in Macalester’s ideal of multiculturalism, and called on administrators to live up to the college’s stated commitment.
“Macalester has a noble mission and it’s imperative that administrators also abide by that mission,” Naca said. “President Rosenberg is not above the college’s policies.”
Naca expressed gratitude for the support she has received from former students and Macalester alumni. Augusta Laurel ’14 and other alumni created the Facebook group “Support Naca Save Mac” last fall, and have been organizing supporters to attend Friday’s hearing.
“I appreciate messages from students and former students who reach out to me,” Naca said. “I care about Macalester too, and my lawsuit is to hold Macalester to the standards that it promotes and celebrates.”
The hearing was scheduled to take place at the Minneapolis Courthouse on the morning of February 17 at 9:00 a.m.