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Attorney for fired Macalester professor may have to testify about harassment claims

ST. PAUL — One of the lawyers for a fired professor suing Macalester College may have to testify about her own sexual harassment claims against a different professor.

Poetry professor Kristin Naca is suing the St. Paul school in U.S. District Court, alleging she was improperly fired in July 2015 for having sex with one of her female students.

Naca says the student pursued her but they kept the relationship platonic until three days after the student graduated, when they met for the first of several sexual encounters. She says the college had no policy barring faculty from having sex with alumni.

Naca, who did not have tenure, claims she was discriminated against because of her Latina and Filipina ethnicity, sex, Santeria religion, disability (a lung infection) and lesbian orientation.

In advancing that argument, Naca claimed in a deposition that another Macalester professor, who is a straight, white, Christian man, was granted tenure in 2001 despite multiple harassment claims by students.

The college disputes that. Administrators say the male professor had complaints against him but none concerned soliciting or engaging in sex with students. Further, the college investigated and determined he had not violated their policies.

Naca, however, said one of the students the male professor had harassed is one of her lawyers, Hlee Vang.

Macalester lawyers asked a judge to compel Vang to answer questions during a deposition about her interactions with the male professor.

During a motions hearing Wednesday, Oct. 11, Naca's primary lawyer, Peter Nickitas, called Macalester's request to depose Vang "an open-ended effort to invade the promise of attorney-client privilege."

Macalester attorney Sean Somermeyer said he wasn't going to ask about anything to do with Vang's representation of Naca.

Magistrate Judge Becky Thorson did not issue an immediate ruling but indicated that deposing Vang could be worthwhile.

"It appears that Ms. Vang has knowledge of facts that are relevant to the case," she said.

Naca separately sued the former student and the student's parents in state court in February 2016, accusing them of lying about the consensual nature of the contact in order to get her fired in retaliation for Naca's ending the relationship. The parties reached a settlement in that case.