CINCINNATI (TDB) -- A federal appeals court says the University of Cincinnati was within its rights to fire a fashion design professor from France. There was evidence some school officials warned her she was "too French." There were also concerns that Nathalie Doucet, like many of her countrymen, had expressed opinions opposing the U.S.-led War in Iraq.
The school contends her national original and political views had nothing to do with the dismissal. Instead, it says her contract in the UC School of Fashion Design Program was not renewed because of inadequate performance as a teacher. A three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals sided with the university as the ruling here makes clear (16 pages PDF). The court said this week it won't step in to undo the decision.
However, there was evidence of anti-French sentiment being discussed during 2002 and 2003, when the U.S. was preparing for the invasion of Iraq and Doucet was having trouble hanging on to her job. France and several other European allies of the United States opposed toppling Saddam Hussein on grounds he might possess weapons of mass destruction. Instead, those countries argued for UN weapons inspections. Anti-French sentiment was widespread, and Congress scrubbed the name french fries from menus in a lunchroom at the Capitol. The appeals court noted:
"Doucet submits that during UC's spring 2002 term, (a school director) told her that her School of Design colleagues perceived her as 'too French.' She further submits that in the fall 2003 term, ... told her that her plans to an international fashion competition were 'not the way Americans do it.' Doucet alleges that a guest referee at a student fashion presentation told her that she was 'not speaking English.' Finally, Doucet suggests that UC administrators were influenced by a March 2003 e-mail from a student's parent that accused Doucet of being "very French and very anti-American' and arguing that Doucet should keep any anti-war sentiment to herself 'while being paid with American dollars.' In general, Doucet has intimated that she was out of the loop within the School of Design and that her colleagues at the School of Design resented her for reasons including her national origin."