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UNR slapped with harassment lawsuit


A communications professor at the University of Nevada, Reno this month filed a lawsuit against UNR via the Nevada System of Higher Education alleging more than four years of sexual harassment and retaliation. 

The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for Nevada after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gave the plaintiff, Tennley Vik, a green light to file the civil suit. 

UNR fired Vik in mid-May with a termination date set for May 20, 2024. The timing of the termination letter, Vik said, was just after UNR was notified of her complaint with Nevada’s Equal Rights Commission. 

Vik said the harassment that kickstarted the events began in March 2019 when another professor, also her department chair, Jimmie Manning, entered her office and discussed “a sexual experience he had and referenced the size of his genitals.” 

Vik said she reported the incident to a school director and it was then reported to the dean’s office and the university’s Title IX department, which handles harassment complaints. Following an interview with the Title IX department, Vik said she received no further response. 

What did happen, she alleges, is that Manning retaliated against her by removing her from committees, giving her negative evaluations, excluding her from inter-department activities and interfering with opportunities for her tenure and promotion. 

“Plaintiff complained to Defendant multiple times of Mr. Manning’s conduct, made multiple requests to report to someone other than Mr. Manning, and made requests to transfer departments away from Mr. Manning,” the lawsuit alleges. “Defendant made no efforts to protect Plaintiff from Mr. Manning’s retaliatory hostility.”

In the complaint, Vik also alleges another less qualified professor was hired and given tenure over her. Vik was tenured at her previous institution and said she was hired with the promise of earning tenure within one to two years. 

Vik is seeking punitive and compensatory damages along with attorney fees. The filing also included a request for a jury trial. 

This Is Reno reached out to UNR officials for comment on the lawsuit. Spokesperson Scott Walquist said, “The university disputes the allegations of the complaint and intends to respond through the court process. The University does not have any further comment on this pending litigation.”

More UNR lawsuits

UNR is facing several sexual harassment and discrimination complaints including an appeal by former professor Alice Wieland. The Nevada Faculty Alliance and American Association of University Professors this month filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Wieland’s appeal this month. 

In another lawsuit, a previous graduate student from China, now a professor at UNR, accused a mechanical engineering professor of sexual exploitation and involuntary servitude that lasted for years. She alleged that UNR knowingly benefitted from the professor’s abuses by keeping him employed and receiving financial gain through victim tuition and research grants. 

Another recent lawsuit involves a former director in the university’s administration who is suing UNR for what he alleges is age discrimination. He said he was forced out of his position through a series of moves that essentially eliminated his position and department when UNR then hired younger employees to do the same work he had been assigned. The lawsuit originally also named UNR President Brian Sandoval and a former supervisor, but they were both removed the the filing.

Through attorneys and court filings, UNR denies wrongdoing in the cases.

Correction: UNR President Brian Sandoval is not named in an age discrimination lawsuit as was originally noted. His name, and that of the plaintiff’s supervisor, were removed from the complaint in the months following the initial filing. That lawsuit is still pending.

Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth is a freelance editor and communications professional with more than 20 years’ experience working in marketing, public relations and communications in northern Nevada. Kristen graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in photography and minor in journalism and has a Master of Science in Management and Leadership. She also serves as director of communications for Nevada Cancer Coalition, a statewide nonprofit. Though she now lives in Atlanta, she is a Nevadan for life and uses her three-hour time advantage to get a jump on the morning’s news.