Wang Ping, acclaimed poet and professor, sues Macalester for discrimination

Wang Ping and the humanities building at Macalester.
Wang Ping and the humanities building at Macalester.
Wikimedia Commons

Wang Ping came to the United States from China with $26 in her pocket. Thirteen years later, she had earned her master's and Ph.D., and in 1999 Macalester hired her to teach creative writing.

In 2001 she hopped on the tenure track, and by 2005 she achieved the rank of a tenured associate professor. Meanwhile, she wrote several of her 10 books and earned coveted awards such as a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in poetry.

But then in 2009, Wang applied for a promotion to full professor, around the same time that a similarly qualified white, male colleague sought the same rank increase. He was promoted. Wang wasn't.

Now, she's suing Macalester for discrimination under the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

See Also:
- Our profile of Wang from 2000: Wang Ping's personal study on Chinese foot binding reflects on the pain of freedom
- Macalester is LGBT friendly after all, says Campus Pride Index
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"I always know that as a woman and a Chinese immigrant, I have to work harder and achieve more in every aspect, especially at Macalester with its record of high minority faculty turnover," Wang wrote in a lengthy Facebook post. But, she says, "I was confident I could survive."

Wang's 2009 denial wasn't her first problem with Macalester. When she began at the school, she had just given birth to her son and was having difficulty walking. When she asked for a different schedule, however, her supervisor advised her to endure. In 2003, she sought an early promotion to associate professor and was denied, even as two male colleagues who had been hired after her advanced. In 2005, she achieved that rank.

When Wang was next denied, in 2009, she appealed. Macalester's Faculty Personnel Committee found violations of the school's policy in her denial, but President Brian Rosenberg declined to investigate them further.

Wang says she then began experiencing retaliation, such as funding cuts and lack of support, and in 2011, she filed a discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC investigated Macalester, but dismissed her case at the end of 2012, and gave Wang 90 days to sue.

So on December 3, she did.

Macalester's lawyers, from the firm Faegre Baker Daniels, responded three weeks later, and on February 1 declared that Wang's relationship with the school is past the point of no return, and that mediation was no longer possible.

Back in 2005, President Rosenberg wrote that Wang is "an exceptionally gifted poet, writer and theorist... well-suited to Macalester's focus on internationalism," and that she had "already accomplished more than a lifetime's work."

By the time she applied for promotion in 2009, she had created three interdisciplinary courses and traveled to different cities as Macalester's "Road Scholar." By comparison, Wang's male colleague, who was granted a promotion at the same time that Wang was denied, had published two books to Wang's ten.

In 2011, she filed her discrimination claims. Meanwhile, she applied for the promotion again, and in the spring of 2012 Macalester approved it. So after the EEOC informed her she had 90 days to sue, Wang first tried to pursue reconciliation. It wasn't until she didn't hear back on that request that she served the school with her complaint.

"My life is shattered," Wang wrote on her Facebook page. "I ask to be treated as an equal to my colleagues despite my gender, religion and nationality... I'm still hoping to sit down face-to-face with the administrators for a conversation... to transform this into something positive."

"It's not about money," Wang continued, "but about working together to make Macalester truly live up to its standards."

Here's Wang's complaint:

Ping Wang. Complaint.filed Ramsey 1-9-13 by

For more on Wang, Minnesota Original interviewed her in September.

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