Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

SKEHAN v. BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF BLOOMSBURG STATE CO

May 9, 1973

Dr. Joseph T. SKEHAN, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF BLOOMSBURG STATE COLLEGE et al., Defendants


Muir, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MUIR

This suit, brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1343, 2201, 2202, and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983 and 1985, alleges deprivations of Plaintiff's constitutional rights in connection with the termination of his employment at Bloomsburg State College in October, 1970. Plaintiff requests damages and injunctive relief, including reinstatement. On January 11 and 12, 1973, a hearing was held to consider Plaintiff's request for a preliminary injunction. This request was denied by the court in an Opinion dated January 31, 1973, D.C., 353 F. Supp. 542, because the nearly two-year delay in instituting this suit indicated that speedy action was not required. The case was placed on the April trial list for a hearing on final injunction and damages. Subsequently, the parties waived a further hearing on the merits and rested on the record developed at the January 11 and 12, 1973 hearing.

 Plaintiff Joseph T. Skehan was appointed Associate Professor of Economics at Bloomsburg State College in January, 1969. His contract was renewed for the 1969-1970 and the 1970-1971 school year. At no time did Dr. Skehan have tenure rights to continued employment.

 In addition to the administration's apparent displeasure with Dr. Skehan's extra-curricular activities, there was some criticism of the manner in which he performed his teaching duties. When Dr. Skehan was hired to teach at Bloomsburg in January, 1969, he was given a six-month "trial" contract because he came to Bloomsburg as a result of the non-renewal of his contract at Seton Hall University, the institution by which he was employed from 1965 until the Spring of 1968. Soon after he began teaching at Bloomsburg, Dr. Saini, the Chairman of the Economics Department, discussed with Dr. Skehan the impropriety of absenting himself from Friday afternoon classes by making arrangements with the students to meet at some other time or with other colleagues to take charge of his classes. Also discussed was the difficulty students were having in seeing Dr. Skehan about problems relating to course work. Dr. Skehan assured Dr. Saini that he would adhere to the applicable regulations at Bloomsburg. Despite these assurances, he arranged, without proper approval, to have some other faculty members take charge of his class during an examination in May, 1969.

 Dr. Skehan's contract was renewed for the 1969-1970 academic year. However, as early as February, 1970, he was verbally advised by Dr. Hoch, Vice-President and Dean of Faculties, that his services would no longer be required after May, 1971. This administration position was formalized on May 19, 1970, when Defendant Nossen sent to Dr. Skehan an offer of reappointment for the 1970-1971 academic year with the understanding that 1971 was to be the terminal year of his employment at Bloomsburg. Dr. Skehan did not execute the offer of reappointment, but on May 28, 1970 he sent to Defendant Nossen a letter which stated in part:

 
"According with provisions on page three of Bloomsburg State College's 'Statement of Policy for Continuous Employment and Academic Freedom' I have re-appointment for the Academic year 1970-71. Your letter confirms the 1970-71 re-appointment. I intend to fulfill the 1970-71 appointment."

 By letter dated June 1, 1970, Defendant Nossen informed Dr. Skehan that failure to execute the offer of reappointment by June 8, 1970, would be interpreted as a refusal of the offer. Dr. Skehan apparently appealed directly to the Board of Trustees. On June 15, 1970, Defendant Nossen sent to Dr. Skehan a letter which stated in part:

 
"The College has prepared a contract form which is applicable to all persons offered appointment. Your refusal, to this point, to return the contract in accord with [the Board's] prescribed procedures continues to indicate to [the Board] your disregard for College procedures. Nevertheless, in view of the original intention to provide due notice, [the Board] will accept the alternative letter as an indication of your acceptance of the 1970-1971 appointment as terminal."

 The events giving rise to Dr. Skehan's midterm discharge occurred in the Fall of 1970. In February, 1970, the Economics Department met and adopted a proposed schedule of courses to be given in the 1970 Fall semester. Pursuant to this proposed schedule, Dr. Skehan was to teach one advanced course in micro economics, and three principles courses in micro or macro economics. Shortly before August 27, 1970, the College Registrar issued a memorandum to all department chairmen stating that any desired changes in the proposed schedules should be submitted on or before August 27, 1970. No changes were submitted by the Economics Department prior to that deadline. However, on September 12, 1970, three days before classes began, the Economics Department met and approved several proposed schedule changes involving Dr. Skehan and other members of the Department. The request to change the schedule was denied by Vice-President Hoch on September 14, 1970, and the denial was communicated to Dr. Skehan on September 15, 1970. Nevertheless, Dr. Skehan and Professor Porter followed the schedule as changed at the September 12, 1970 Department meeting. Following receipt on September 22, 1970, of a letter from Dr. Hoch directing him to follow the official class schedule, Dr. Skehan began meeting with his classes under the official schedule and with his classes under the requested schedule. Dr. Skehan and Professor Porter both participated in the advanced micro economics course, officially assigned to Dr. Skehan. Professor Porter prepared the course materials and led the classroom procedures.

 Pursuant to a request by Dr. Skehan, Vice-President Hoch arranged a meeting on September 29, 1970, to discuss the scheduling problems. At the meeting, attended by the members of the Economics Department and Vice-President Hoch, Dr. Skehan and Professor Porter were given an opportunity to present their views. Vice-President Hoch stated that he denied the requested schedule changes because he felt that the changes were requested for purely personal reasons, and because the changes were not submitted prior to the August 27, 1970 deadline. Other members of the Economics Department, including the acting chairman, Mr. Ross, stated that the Department had sought schedule adjustments and that in light of the Vice-President's veto of the proposed schedule changes, the official schedule should be adhered to. At the conclusion of the meeting, Vice-President Hoch read a statement which provided in part:

 
". . . Dr. Skehan and Mr. Porter are hereby directed to follow the official class schedule, which appears in the Master Class Schedule for the fall semester of the college year 1970-71, beginning Wednesday, September 30, 1970, at 8:00 A.M.
 
"It is only fair to warn each of you gentlemen that immediate and direct administrative action will follow your failure to teach your classes as ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.