George Mazza, a 62-year old attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, is suing Georgetown for rejecting his application to the university’s theology doctoral program because of alleged age discrimination. Mazza said that the sole basis for his rejection was his age, and he was otherwise qualified for admission.
On April 17, 2017 Mazza met with Peter Phan, a member of the admissions committee for the doctoral program to discuss why Mazza was rejected and how he could improve his application for the next admissions cycle.
“Dr. Phan indicated that the preeminent selection criterion was whether the admissions candidate that would likely find on graduation a full-time, tenure-track, faculty position at a major university,” read the complaint filed by Mazza in D.C. District Court on Feb. 12.
As a 62 year-old, Mazza would be unlikely to find such a job after graduating, when he would most likely be 68 years old. The program to which Mazza applied has 20 students and provides each with full tuition, health insurance, and a five-year living stipend. Because Georgetown receives federal financial assistance, it must abide by the conditions of the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 and the D.C. Human Rights Act, which prohibits any kind of discrimination based on age.
“The DCHRA [DC Human Rights Act] makes it unlawful for an educational institution to deny, restrict, or abridge the services, programs or benefits of any program or activity to any person otherwise qualified, wholly or partially, based on actual or perceived age,” read the complaint.
According to the complaint, Mazza has suffered damages including monetary loss, lost opportunities, and emotional pain and suffering. He is seeking monetary compensation for these damages and his attorneys’ fees, as well as admission to the program.
This is not the first time Georgetown has been sued for age discrimination. In 2013, former North Dakota Attorney General Nicholas Spaeth sued the Law Center and lost. Spaeth claimed that while applying for a law school teaching position, he was not granted an interview on the basis of his age — at the time, Spaeth was 63 years old. He then sued Georgetown and five other schools over his rejection. Georgetown claimed that they declined to interview him due to the lack of academic scholarship and research publications in Spaeth’s application and the judge ruled in the university’s favor.
The complaint references Mazza’s “exceptional credentials and qualifications.” He holds several advanced degrees, including multiple masters degrees from the University of Chicago and Harvard University, as well as a law degree from Georgetown University. His résumé also includes twenty years in the Justice Department investigating civil rights issues, with a particular focus on religion.
“By virtue of his superior experience and qualifications, the Plaintiff was qualified for selection into the doctor program in the University’s Department of Theology. Notwithstanding his superior qualifications, the Plaintiff was rejected because of his age in violation of the Age Act,” read the complaint. “But for his age, he would have been selected.”
The university has not publicly commented on the complaint at this time.