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Latina theater teacher sues Pomona College for discrimination

A well-respected local acting teacher, director, and actress has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Pomona College for denying her tenure, and for wrongful termination. She contends that the actions of the college were taken because she is a Latina. The plaintiff, Alma Martinez, is being aided in her lawsuit by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).

According to the lawsuit, in September 2011, the Pomona College’s Department of Theatre and Dance recommended that the 60-year-old be promoted to associate professor with tenure. She says that although she was well qualified for tenure, she was denied it, and then fired this year.

Martinez’s suit contends that she was a role model for young people, particularly Latinas, both as an actor and a scholar. She says that she helped expand enrollment in theater classes at Pomona during her six years there, and served as a mentor to theater students. The suit also pointed to her experience in numerous stage productions and films.

Martinez is certainly not without impressive academic credentials. She has a Ph.D. in Drama from Stanford University and a master’s degree in acting from the University of Southern California. She was also a Fulbright Scholar.

A spokesman for Pomona College said that the allegation of discrimination is without basis. According to the school, 30 percent of its faculty members are minorities, and 44 percent are women. The college is not commenting on its tenure review for Martinez because of the litigation.

According to Martinez and MALDEF, the teacher would like to get her job back, with tenure, and return to her students. She is also seeking unspecified damages. The general counsel for MALDEF says that with the suit, they also hope to shed light on the lack of minorities and women in tenured positions in California’s university systems.

Cases involving tenure can be complicated because it is not a completely objective process. It can be difficult to prove discrimination in cases where it has not been displayed or stated openly. However, as Martinez and the attorney for MALDEF both said, if people believe there is no legitimate reason for being denied tenure or losing their jobs, they owe it to themselves and others to take action.

Huffington Post, “Alma Martinez Sues Pomona College For Alleged Discrimination” Tony Castro, Aug. 23, 2013

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