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JOHNSON v. UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH

June 4, 1973

Dr. Sharon Johnson, Plaintiff
v.
University of Pittsburgh et al., Defendants


Knox, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: KNOX

The court, having taken testimony and considered the evidence presented on both sides and the briefs and arguments of counsel, makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law with discussion setting forth the reasons therefor, as follows:

 Findings of Fact

 (1) Plaintiff was employed in 1967 for three years as Assistant Professor without tenure in the Department of Biochemistry of the School of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh at a salary of $13,000 per year.

 (2) At the time of her employment, plaintiff was advised by the Chairman of the Biochemistry Department that the requirements for securing tenure within 6 years were research and membership in the American Society of Biological Chemists. (Exhibit B, Complaint).

 (3) Plaintiff's employment as Assistant Professor without tenure was renewed in 1970 by the University of Pittsburgh for an additional term of three years until June 30, 1973. Her present salary after certain raises and a cost of living increase is $18,000 per year.

 (4) Prior to June 30, 1973, it was necessary that the University of Pittsburgh decide whether plaintiff would be granted tenure and be promoted to Associate Professor or have her employment terminated.

 (5) During her employment at the University of Pittsburgh, plaintiff did attain membership in the American Society of Biological Chemists; attained professional stature; did publish independent research of high quality; was active in other contributions; and, fulfilled her teaching requirements in a fashion that was not criticized prior to 1971.

 (6) At no time was plaintiff advised that the criteria for promotion in her department had changed or that the criteria in the Faculty Handbook of the University of Pittsburgh had changed.

 (7) The criteria for appointment and promotion of tenured employees is set forth in the Faculty Handbook of the University of Pittsburgh as follows: effectiveness as a teacher; research and scholarship; professional stature; and, other contributions.

 (8) At no time during the years 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970 and 1971 was plaintiff advised that her teaching was inadequate or that her research was not in an area relevant to the Department of Biochemistry or the School of Medicine except that the head of the Department in September 1971 suggested that she should have her equations ready on the blackboards in lecture.

 (9) In September 1971 the University of Pittsburgh, by Dean Donald Medearis of the School of Medicine, agreed to be the grantee institution for grant application by plaintiff which resulted in an award of $93,000 by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health for research to be conducted by plaintiff as principal investigator over a period of three years.

 (10) On October 27, 1971, the Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry called a meeting of the tenured professors of that Department to discuss the appointment to tenure of plaintiff.

 (12) There is no evidence that the procedure used in October 1971 was ever before used to terminate the employment of a professional employee in the tenure stream at the University of Pittsburgh.

 (13) On October 27, 1971, it was decided not to grant plaintiff tenure and this was based primarily on the committee's finding that plaintiff's teaching was inadequate. This conclusion of plaintiff's teaching was purportedly based on an assessment of four lectures by plaintiff in September 1971.

 (14) The first lecture given by plaintiff in September, 1971, was regarded by the Chairman as being good in its approach and content but was criticized as to placing of equations on blackboards.

 (15) The 1971 assessment of plaintiff's teaching failed to consider her teaching of 4 years; did not consider either plaintiff's teaching of graduate students in the Biochemistry Department, or plaintiff's other teaching functions in advising students and in laboratory instruction, nor was consideration given to the other criteria set forth in Finding No. 7.

 (16) Plaintiff was first notified that her employment would be terminated on January 6, 1972, in a conversation with the Chairman of the Department, after she had been made aware of the possibility at a Christmas party. She later received a letter to this effect March 8, 1972.

 (17) Plaintiff after several unsuccessful attempts met with the Dean of the School of Medicine in the months of March and April 1972 and thereafter met with the Senate Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee of the University of Pittsburgh. No existing procedure for further hearing by the Chancellor exists, although discussions continued for further proceedings which never materialized.

 (18) Plaintiff's research grant will be terminated on June 30, 1973, unless her employment is extended by the University of Pittsburgh. It is necessary that the government grant as to which notice of termination was previously given by the University be continued by notice to the National Institution of Health prior to June 1, 1973.

 (19) Plaintiff has made attempts to obtain employment elsewhere by listing her availability with professional societies, answering ads for jobs, and applying for employment to numerous institutions of higher education, all without success.

 (20) Both the opportunity for other employment, and the opportunity to obtain funds for research are severely restricted at the present time because of ...


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