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GARVEY v. DICKINSON COLLEGE

August 23, 1991

SHEILA HICKEY GARVEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DICKINSON COLLEGE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McCLURE, District Judge.

      MEMORANDUM
I.  BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Sheila Garvey alleges in this Title VII action*fn1 that she was sexually harassed and subjected to discrimination from 1985 to 1987 while she was employed as a professor of drama at Dickinson College ("Dickinson") in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In addition to Dickinson, Garvey names George Allan, Ph.D., as a defendant. Garvey alleges that Dickinson retaliated against her*fn2 by refusing to renew her teaching contract because she reported incidents of sexual harassment allegedly perpetrated by David Peck, her immediate supervisor and chairman of the drama department from 1985 to 1987.

The non-jury trial concluded June 17, 1991, and both sides presented extensive evidence. Plaintiff presented testimony from several witnesses in her case in chief. She testified on her own behalf and also introduced testimony from Susan Feldman, Ph.D., David Brubaker, Susan Nichols, Brad Bortner, Sandor Biro, Ph.D., Sigurd Jensen, and Thomas J. Peterson. Feldman is a professor of philosophy at Dickinson. Brubaker was chairman of the drama department at Dickinson and served as plaintiff's immediate supervisor from 1981 to 1985. Nichols is an associate dean at Dickinson and served as the affirmative action officer at Dickinson from 1985 through 1987. Brad Bortner was a student in the Dickinson drama department who was graduated in 1988. Biro is a set designer, who worked in the drama department at Dickinson during the Fall 1986 semester. Jensen is chairman of the theater department at Southern Connecticut State University ("SCSU"), where plaintiff currently teaches. Peterson is a professor of drama at SCSU. Plaintiff presented only her own testimony on rebuttal.

In their case in chief, defendants presented testimony from Dean Allan, Margaret Garrett, Truman Bullard, Ph.D., James Drake, David Kranz, Ph.D. and Christine Villardo. Allan is the dean at Dickinson. Garrett is an assistant dean. Bullard is chairman of the music department at Dickinson and served on one of the committees which evaluated plaintiff for contract renewal. Kranz is a professor of english at Dickinson who also served on one of the committees which evaluated plaintiff for contract renewal. Drake and Villardo are both members of the Dickinson drama department. Drake is a set designer, and Villardo teaches dance. Defendants presented no sur-rebuttal testimony.

Both sides also presented extensive documentary evidence.

After considering all of the evidence presented, we find that Garvey was not discharged in retaliation for reporting Peck's alleged sexual harassment of female faculty and students. We further find that the reason for her termination was the college's dissatisfaction with the quality of her work. Any claim based on the alleged incidents of harassment perpetrated by Peck against Garvey is barred by the statute of limitations. Based on these findings, we conclude that defendants did not violate federal or state anti-discrimination law, and will enter judgment in their favor. We will address the matter of attorneys' fees in a separate order after the parties have had an opportunity to brief the issues.

II. FINDINGS OF FACT

Based upon the evidence presented at trial, the court makes the following findings of fact.

Contract Renewal Decisions

1. Evaluations for faculty renewal are conducted according to standards and procedures published in the Faculty Handbook ("handbook"). The handbook states that a professor's accomplishments in three areas, namely, teaching, scholarship, and community service (listed in descending order of importance), are considered in evaluating performance and deciding whether contract renewal is appropriate. Professors on a tenure track are typically evaluated at two-year intervals.

2. Factors which play a role in the evaluation of teaching include course content and organization, teaching style and methods. To gauge these factors, evaluators typically observe classes taught by the professor, review the course syllabus, speak with students in the class, and review course evaluation reports completed by the students.

3. Factors which play a role in the evaluation of scholarship include the number and quality of publications by the professor and other accomplishments which demonstrate mastery in his or her chosen field. In the field of drama, renewal candidates may be judged in this area on the basis of acting or performing, as well as other scholarly endeavors.

4. Factors which play a role in the evaluation of community service include service on college interdepartmental committees, and participation in community service organizations.

5. The college follows a three-tier system of review. Typically, the department chairperson makes a recommendation to the Faculty Personnel Committee ("FPC"), a standing committee whose function it is to conduct a further review and report its findings and recommendation on contract renewal to Dean Allan.

6. Dean Allan then, typically, meets with the professor, who has had an opportunity to submit a personal activities statement ("PAS") indicating what he believes his significant accomplishments have been since the last renewal evaluation. The dean then typically reviews the PAS with the professor and also discusses the recommendation and findings of the FPC. Based on all of the information then before him, the Dean decides whether contract renewal is appropriate.

7. The administration's dissatisfaction with Garvey's performance at Dickinson dates back to her first evaluation conducted in 1983. At that time, the FPC noted serious weaknesses in her teaching, principally her disorganization and seeming inability to communicate the subject matter to students with clarity and conviction.

8. Similar deficiencies were noted in her 1985 evaluation. The FPC found her teaching disorganized, uninspired, unchallenging and "unevenly effective" and her directing similarly disorganized, ineffectual, at times. Troubled by these deficiencies, the FPC recommended that her teaching contract not be renewed. (D49).*fn3 Directing student theatrical productions was an important part of Garvey's responsibilities as a drama professor.

9. Although the Dean ultimately decided not to follow the FPC's negative recommendation, he advised Garvey in the letter informing her of his decision to renew her teaching contract for another two-year term that the deficiencies noted by the FPC would have to be "substantially cleared up" by the next renewal. (D16).

10. Garvey's next renewal evaluation was conducted during the 1986-87 school year. Due to the uneasy relationship between her and Peck, as well as to the fact that neither of them had tenure, and both were, in a sense, competing for tenure, Peck did not evaluate her performance. Instead, an Ad Hoc Committee was appointed to perform the initial, preliminary evaluation and submit a report to the FPC. The Ad Hoc Committee consisted of Dean Garrett, Truman Bullard and David Kranz. Garvey voiced no objection to this procedure or to the make-up of the committee.

11. After attending Garvey's classes, interviewing several of her students, viewing play rehearsals she directed, viewing a production she directed, and reviewing the course evaluations completed by her students, the Ad Hoc Committee found serious deficiencies in her teaching and directing. (Directing student productions constituted an important facet of Garvey's duties.) Committee members found that she did not make good use of class time, that there appeared to be no overall purpose, direction or plan for the class, that students did not appear to have a clear understanding of what they were doing, and that an overall conceptual framework for the course was lacking. (D126).

12. Garvey's performance in the other two areas of review, scholarship and community service, was judged to be somewhat more satisfactory, although there were some criticisms noted in those areas as well. The evaluators were troubled by the fact that her writing projects appeared to lack direction and focus, that she had changed direction several times and seemingly did not follow through on goals she set out to achieve. They were also troubled by her continuing inability or unwillingness to cooperate and work effectively with other members of her department and to put aside personal differences to work toward a team goal for the good of the students.

13. Based on these findings, the Ad Hoc Committee voted unanimously not to renew Garvey's teaching for another term and submitted its negative recommendation to the FPC.

14. At Garvey's suggestion, the FPC retained an outside evaluator to critique one of the student productions to gauge her competency as a director. The evaluator was a member of the American College Theater Festival — an organization which reviews college productions and whose members participate in evaluating such productions in a competition for the best college production nationwide. The evaluator, Alice Robinson, did not submit a favorable report on Garvey's production. Robinson found the choice of plays inappropriate and found that the production lacked direction and purpose.

15. After reviewing the findings of the Ad Hoc Committee and conducting its own inquiry, the FPC determined that it would not recommend renewal to the Dean.

16. Dean Allan, confronted with negative recommendations from both the Faculty Personnel Committee and the Ad Hoc Committee, decided that Garvey's contract would not be renewed.

17. Garvey appealed the dean's decision to the Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee, and it affirmed the decision.

18. Garvey filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Committee ("PHRC") on August 18, 1987.

19. Garvey filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ...


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