Former student files discrimination lawsuit against WKU

Van Meter Hall sits at the top of WKU’s campus.

Laurel Deppen

A racial discrimination and sexual misconduct lawsuit has been filed against WKU and six university-affiliated parties.

The suit alleges that the plaintiff, Jada Jefferson, was subject to “verbal, mental and emotional abuse” because of “tortious conduct” by the defendants during her time as a student in WKU’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

The federal suit was filed on Wednesday and claims violations of Title IX and Title VI of the U.S. Code, detailing multiple instances spanning from the Fall 2015 semester to Fall 2019.

President Timothy Caboni and former President Gary Ransdell are named individually as defendants because of their roles as university president. Andrea Anderson, who was recently named general counsel, was also listed because of her previous role as Title IX coordinator.

It individually names Scott Stroot, who no longer teaches at WKU, as a defendant. David Young, Theatre and Dance department head, and Michelle Dvoskin, an associate professor and theatre program coordinator, are also named as defendants.

They didn’t respond to the Herald’s email requesting comment.

The suit claims Jefferson, a Black woman, was subject to racist comments from Stroot, specifically about how she spoke, her hair and skin color. It also alleges Stroot made multiple comments in different instances about Jefferson’s cleavage.

The suit also alleges Stroot held Jefferson’s thigh and hand in an empty theater.

In the fall 2018 semester, Jefferson reported Stroot’s behavior to Young and Dvoskin, according to the suit. Young and Dvoskin are both mandatory reporters under university policy, meaning they must report such complaints by students to university officials, but the suit claims each of them said there was “nothing they could do.”

Jefferson’s attorney, Lindsay Cordes — who also represents former student body president Andi Dahmer in a suit against the university — said her clients are encouraged to not speak about active litigation. 

In a statement, Cordes said Jefferson’s experiences were “deeply concerning and troubling.”

“This is completely counter to WKU’s statement as a campus that prides itself on diversity and inclusion,” Cordes wrote. “We hope to see changes made to ensure all students are treated equally, with respect and dignity, and can learn in a safe, accepting and healthy environment.”

Lawsuits only present the plaintiff’s experiences. WKU referred the Herald to the attorneys representing the university at the Kerrick Bachert law firm in Bowling Green.

The firm didn’t comment beyond saying they had received the lawsuit and would investigate the matter and file “the appropriate responses.”

The Herald has requested personnel records for Stroot, Dvoskin and Young. 

This story will be updated.

Laurel Deppen can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @laurel_deppen.