Appeal from the Judgment entered January 28, 1986 in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirming (2809 Philadelphia 1982) the Judgment entered September 1, 1982, and Order of Court entered May 18, 1981, in the Court of Common Pleas, Northampton County, Civil Action, Law, at No. 1979-C-205.
Nix, C.j., and Flaherty, Hutchinson, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. Hutchinson and Papadakos, JJ., concurred in the result. Larsen and McDermott, JJ., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.
We granted the Appellant's petition for allowance of appeal to review the Superior Court's order, 350 Pa. Super. 68, 504 A.2d 247, affirming the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, which had granted Appellee's preliminary objections to parts of Count I and II of the Appellant's complaint and granted a motion for summary judgment to the remaining parts of Count I and II of that same complaint. Because we hold that the communications were not defamatory and that the Appellant's contract was not breached, we affirm.
On or about May 19, 1976, the Appellant accepted a position as an Assistant Professor in the Art Department of Lafayette College (College). The written contract term was for two years commencing with the Fall term of 1976 although the Appellant believed he had a commitment for two two-year contracts to be followed with tenure. Furthermore, his contract incorporated and included The Faculty Handbook.
Between May and June of 1977, internal problems arose within the Art Department and with the behavior of its chairman. As a result of alleged behavioral problems of the department chairman, the Appellant had frank and open discussions with the College's staff, including the President, the Provost, the Assistant Provost, and the College physician. The Appellant was assured that all conversations would be held in strict confidence. However, at a later date, the Appellant learned that the department chairman had been advised of the substance of these conversations. Further investigation of the chairman resulted in the College physician recommending psychiatric and psychological counseling for the department chairman.
On July 15, 1977, the department chairman wrote his first evaluation of the Appellant. In this report, the chairman critiqued each course taught by the Appellant as well as his overall job performance. On October 31, 1977, the chairman
authored his second evaluation in which he expressed disappointment and dissatisfaction with Appellant's overall job performance, his failure to improve such performance, and his failure to live up to his projected performance. In this second evaluation, the department chairman recommended that Appellant not be reappointed. Neither of these evaluations were forwarded to the Appellant.
On December 13, 1977, the Appellant was informed that he would not be reappointed because economic factors required a decrease in the staffing of the Art Department. The Appellant then advised the provost that he would not appeal this determination and requested that no further review be conducted as had occurred after another teacher's termination. Notwithstanding, the dean of the Tyler School of Art of Temple University (Tyler) visited the College. Although the provost indicated that the purpose of the dean's visit was to evaluate the Art Department, the dean indicated in his report that the purpose of his visit was to evaluate a faculty member of the Art Department and the facts surrounding his termination.
Pursuant to Section 3.555 of The Faculty Handbook, the Appellant appealed his nonreappointment to the president of the College and requested the appointment of an advisory committee. This committee gave little credence to the chairman's evaluations and likewise found fault with the evaluation of the dean of Tyler. The committee did not recommend retaining the Appellant but did recommend that new evaluations be conducted. Despite the expressed views of the advisory committee about the unreliability of the evaulations, the president denied the appeal. The board of trustees affirmed that decision.
The Appellant then commenced this litigation by filing a complaint against Lafayette College, asserting that the two evaluations by the department chairman, the evaluation of the dean from Tyler, and a memorandum from the department chairman to the provost were all libelous and slanderous. In addition, the Appellant alleged that the College
breached his employment contract by not acting in good faith in ...