Dean of Women’s College at Rutgers May or May Not Hate Lesbians

Dean Jacquelyn Litt is the dean of Douglass Residential College, the women’s college at Rutgers University. And in January, a former Douglass Residential College employee Laura Federico sued both Dean Litt and the University on the basis of wrongful termination. Federico, who was fired from a senior-level public relations position, says that Litt “felt that women who had men behind them were stronger and better employees” and had been warned by other employees that Litt didn’t like lesbians. The lawsuit even goes so far as to say that other gay women in the office had been forced to transfer or resign, or had even been fired. That’s pretty clear language – and it was no secret that Federico is a lesbian. She kept a picture of her wife on her desk.

Dean Litt via My Central Jersey

Dean Litt via My Central Jersey

Rutgers University says, however, that firing Federico had nothing to do with sexual orientation, but rather that she couldn’t meet deadlines and that her work required “substantial revisions, changes or reworking.”

The shit part here is that we don’t know who’s in the right – was Federico a bad fit employee because of the quality of her work? Or did Litt’s prejudices have something to do with the decision to terminate, and everything else was a justification?

I can only offer the following few things:

I graduated from Douglass College before it became Douglass Residential College. It’s pretty lesbian friendly, being that it’s the women’s college at Rutgers. I never had any weird experiences with any of the Deans from my time there – only very good experiences. Dean Litt took her position after I graduated. As for the environment in general (i.e., the other students,staff in other parts of Rutgers), I’d say it’s no more hostile to lesbians than the rest of planet earth.

But I also wouldn’t be surprised if this were totally true – hell, I’ve been railroaded out of groups because people didn’t like me. Who hasn’t? This has literally happened to everyone. People start looking for reasons to eject you based on their personal feelings, and it becomes increasingly difficult to do everything perfectly with all eyes on you. Dean Litt may not have even been aware that her prejudices were affecting her decision. It happens. And the shit part of that is queer people then have to perform at a higher level than everyone else to just not get fired.

We don’t know, though. And we won’t know until the lawsuit has been settled. Federico was let go last October and the lawsuit was filed in January. And all of this is only coming to light now, so I’ll be sure to keep you updated. All in all, it’s been a super bad few years for Rutgers publicity-wise, and this may just be an attempt to jump on the bandwagon, as it were. Or it might not be. Discuss.

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A.E. Osworth

A.E. Osworth is part-time Faculty at The New School, where they teach undergraduates the art of digital storytelling. Their novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, about a game developer dealing with harassment (and narrated collectively by a fictional subreddit), is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (April 2021) and is available for pre-order now. They have an eight-year freelancing career and you can find their work on Autostraddle (where they used to be the Geekery Editor), Guernica, Quartz, Electric Lit, Paper Darts, Mashable, and drDoctor, among others.

A.E. has written 542 articles for us.


  1. I’m a current first-year student at DRC (and Rutgers, whatever). Just this morning at Plenary I heard her speak (not about this, obviously) and literally stood behind her in the line for food a the BBQ afterwards. Only a couple of hours ago my friend thew the Daily Targum at me and we freaked out about this together.

    DRC is sooo gay friendly. So much so that I can’t even keep track of all the queers just in my residence hall. This place has allowed me to find a great group of queer, feminist friends all within my Douglass dorm, but hearing this news about our admired head dean is really disconcerting.

  2. This is especially awful news on the eve of the 95th anniversary of Douglass College. I was there for 2 years with Dean Litt, and though I agree that I never experienced any hostility for being gay, I also never experienced anything but a heteronormative atmosphere, even on Douglass campus. So much so that in Douglass courses or groups I’d have to raise my hand and ask, “What about the gays?”

  3. But Dean Litt looks like one half of lesbian couple in my neighborhood who bake bread and sell it at the local farmer’s market.

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