GW settles MVC suit

Former Mount Vernon College professors reached a settlement with GW out of court Saturday to receive compensation for losing their jobs when GW took over the women’s college. The settlement prevented a court battle scheduled to begin this week.

Declining to disclose details of the deal, the plaintiff’s lawyer Michael Kane said the professors originally sought about $5 million in damages for lost salaries and benefits.

GW officials said the agreement does not indicate GW claims any responsibility for the professors’ unemployment.

“People settle things for a whole variety of reasons,” said Mount Vernon Executive Dean Grae Baxter, describing Saturday’s decision “an agreement of the parties to move on and finalize (the issue).”

The 13 professors will reach a formal settlement agreement with GW this week and announce it Monday, Kane said.

“It was just in everyone’s interest to get it resolved,” he said.

Former MVC professors filed suit with D.C. Superior Court, alleging that GW illegally terminated their contracts when the University took control of the women’s college and fired all 50 teachers in 1999. While GW was not named in the suit, Mount Vernon College, which GW administrators headed, was named as the defendant.

Before the settlement, GW officials said they could not be held responsible for the contracts, which they said Mount Vernon College terminated when the college was forced to close because of financial difficulties. Because GW had an “affiliation” agreement with the college signed in 1996 rather than a merger, the professors never worked for the University, GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said.

“They never worked for George Washington University, these people never worked for me. The court has agreed,” he said in an interview last week, citing the summary judgment issued last May removing GW from the case.

In 1996 GW paid off a $6.5 million loan Mount Vernon College owed to Georgetown University and set its own set of financial benchmarks for the school. By December 1997, Mount Vernon College announced it would close after the next year and a half and terminated teaching contracts. GW administrators headed the Mount Vernon College board of trustees.

While she could not disclose the details of the agreement, former Mount Vernon professor Monica Heppel, one of the plaintiffs involved in the suit, said she was pleased with the settlement.

“Of course they were going to pay, they were responsible,” Heppel said. “I think it’s basically fair.”

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