MILLERSVILLE, Pa. — A former dean at Millersville University has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the school, accusing it of discriminating against her because of her age, race, and gender, according to court documents.
Charity Welch, 67, filed the lawsuit on Oct. 6 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Welch, who resides in Willow Street, Lancaster County, worked as an assistant dean in the College of Graduate Studies and Adult Learning from 2016 to 2019.
During her time in the CGSAL, Welch says, she experienced "severe" harassment from Victor DiSantis, who at the time served as the dean of the CGSAL and supervised her.
Welch's lawsuit accuses DiSantis of leaving her out of important meetings, denying her opportunities for advancement, and interfering with her attempt to hire a Black student to work for her.
The harassment began in 2017, Welch says in the lawsuit.
At that time, DiSantis berated her in front of "a dozen employees, including multiple subordinates," the lawsuit states.
At the same time, the lawsuit alleges, DiSantis "spoke respectfully" to her younger colleagues, all of whom were white.
Welch says in the lawsuit that she was also frequently left out of meetings by DiSantis, who also allegedly denied her important information related to her job.
DiSantis received a promotion in August 2018, becoming the university president's chief of staff, the lawsuit states. Welch was next in line to the title of dean of the CGSAL, and assumed she would be his successor.
But the university instead appointed James Delle, "a white man who is significantly younger than (Welch)," the lawsuit states.
Delle had only been working for the university for two months, and had not worked within the CGSAL before he was named interim dean.
He was later officially hired to succeed DiSantis, thereby becoming Welch's supervisor, the lawsuit says.
Following Delle's appointment, the harassment Welch experienced continued, the lawsuit says. She was again excluded from "important meetings and projects," the lawsuit states.
She was also demoted "in that she would no longer serve as acting dean when the dean was absent," following Delle's appointment, the lawsuit says.
Welch was "constructively discharged" from her position in November 2019, the lawsuit says. When an employee is constructively discharged, it means they resigned as a result of a hostile work environment created by the employer.
Welch's lawsuit seeks damages for "past and future monetary losses as a result of (Millersville University's) unlawful discrimination," and wants the university to remove any "negative, discriminatory, and/or defamatory" documents from her employment record.
It also seeks a permanent injunction barring the university and its employers from "engaging in, ratifying, or refusing to correct" discriminatory employment practices.
Janet Kacskos, director of communications at Millersville University, issued the following statement on the university's behalf regarding the lawsuit:
"At Millersville, our EPPIIC values – which include professionalism, inclusion, integrity and compassion – fuel every aspect of our operations, including our hiring and career-advancement practices. Moreover, we are deeply committed to creating a diverse, inclusive and equitable campus community and, as an equal opportunity institution, we do not tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity or age.
"We are aware of the lawsuit, and we take allegations such as these quite seriously. However, because this is both a legal and personnel matter, it wouldn't be appropriate to provide details."