DETROIT ― The University of Michigan agreed to pay $165,000 to settle what was left of a lawsuit over a graduate student’s dismissal from an engineering program in 2011.
The school struck a deal with Jennifer Dibbern shortly before a June trial and after a federal judge dismissed most claims. She had accused the university of retaliating against her for union activity and efforts to change the campus anti-harassment policy.
The university denied any wrongdoing and said Dibbern wasn’t making enough progress toward a doctorate degree after four years, among other problems.
Dibbern’s lawyers will get $83,000, half the settlement, for their fees and expenses, according to a document released to The Associated Press under a public records request.
The university denied liability and said it settled after 3½ years to bring an end to the costly litigation. The agreement bars both sides from talking about the deal.
“We resolved the case to everybody’s satisfaction,” said Dibbern’s attorney, David Blanchard.
He said Dibbern is pursuing an advanced degree in linguistics elsewhere.
Dibbern went public in 2012, telling reporters that she was kicked out of the College of Engineering because she supported efforts to unionize research assistants.
The litigation revealed that Dibbern had reported sexual harassment by male students. Depositions and other evidence also showed that she had been repeatedly warned that she wasn’t spending enough time in the lab while pursuing interests in law and labor.
By fall 2011, professor Rachel Goldman said Dibbern’s research grant would end “unless some extraordinary changes occur.”
Before the settlement, U.S. District Judge Sean Cox said Dibbern had shown evidence of a “casual connection” between her dismissal and negative reactions to her union-organizing activities.
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