Former OSU college of pharmacy dean wins misconduct lawsuit, university plans to appeal


Jiratana Tungkawachara

The front of the Pharmacy Building on March 1 on Oregon State University’s campus in Corvallis. OSU plans to appeal a recent verdict which ruled in favor of former Dean of the College of Pharmacy Grace Kuo, who claims she was unjustly demoted.

Nino Paoli and Adriana Gutierrez, News Reporter

Clarification: A previous version of this article incorrectly included a statement that was quoted rather than paraphrased. The Barometer has clarified this as of 9:10 p.m. and regrets the error. 

Oregon State University disputes and plans to appeal a suit that awarded just over $600,000 to the former dean of the College of Pharmacy who claimed unfair demotion after a whistleblower comment. 

On Feb. 13, a Multnomah County jury made a decision siding with former Dean Grace Kuo, who claims she was stripped of her deanship after following up on student complaints of inaction by former Executive Associate Dean of the College of Pharmacy Gary Delander when informed of allegations of racism, discrimination and sexual harassment within the college.

In a meeting in early June 2020 with then Chief Diversity Officer Charlene Alexander and then Office of Institutional Diversity Assistant Director of Outreach Brandi Douglas, students claimed that Delander “told them to solve the problems on their own,” according to court documents filed by Kuo’s attorney Martin Dolan. Kuo claimed Delander mishandled the student complaints and wanted to take punitive action. 

“Students reported feeling shut down, insecure and unsafe coming to school and being in the pharmacy building,” said Kuo’s complaint document. 

“The student complaints were serious,” Dolan said. “And they had… also pointed out to the university that this is not just the first time, but there was a history of these complaints not being taken seriously by OSU administrative personnel.” 

Kuo took these claims to university leadership and was advised to ask Delander to step down. By June 13 — allegedly supported by Provost Edward Feser and Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Susan Capalbo — Kuo asked Delander to step down from his position. 

In the following months, this decision was met with complaints from the OSU Alumni Foundation staff according to court documents which claimed that “certain alumni were angry with (Kuo) for the Delander decision,” which changed the minds of Feser, Capalbo and others in OSU leadership. Kuo claims that this ultimately led to her demotion on Dec. 3, 2020.

The Multnomah jury sided with Kuo’s claim of unjust demotion, awarding her just over $100,000 in economic damages and $500,000 in non-economic damages. 

But, Steve Clark, vice president of University Relations and Marketing at OSU, “unequivocally and fully disputes Kuo’s claim of retaliation,” and said that she was not dismissed from her dean position for being a whistleblower.

Clark states  Kuo’s dismissal as dean was solely due to concerns about leadership, with the university officials and Kuo’s position as dean. The university held a five-month “leadership assessment” — according to court documents — that followed the alumni backlash and lasted from July of 2020 until her removal in December of 2020. 

“Deans serve at the pleasure of the provost and are judged on their leadership performance and contributions to the university and their college,” Clark said. “While dismissed as dean, her employment as a faculty professor was retained.” 

Clark said he and others who are a part of OSU leadership were disappointed by the verdict and will appeal it. 

“A news release distributed this week by Dr. Kuo’s law firm about the results of this trial does not mention testimony from many witnesses disputing Dr. Kuo’s allegations,” Clark said. “These witnesses uniformly testified about their significant concerns regarding Dr. Kuo’s leadership, concerns that well pre-dated the students’ concerns about (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) issues in Dr. Kuo’s College in June 2020 and that continued afterwards.”

Dolan said that Kuo’s decision to sue the university was not money-driven. 

“(Kuo) wanted to demonstrate what had happened to her as a kind of example or lesson to other people that you don’t have to have these things happen to you, you can stand up for yourself and you can even stand up to a larger organization like OSU,” Dolan said. “I think for her, that was the most important thing.” 

Delander is currently still involved with the university as an emeritus faculty member. 


Was this article helpful?