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ELMORE v. CLARION UNIV. OF PENNSYLVANIA

August 6, 1996

DR. PATRICIA C. ELMORE, Plaintiff
v.
CLARION UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CALDWELL

 This action arises from Plaintiff's employment with Defendant Clarion University of Pennsylvania ("Clarion"). *fn1" Plaintiff was hired as an assistant professor in Clarion's Education Department for academic year 1992-93. She was appointed for a period of one year, as are all non-tenured employees, and was reappointed for the 1993-94 academic year. However, when she was not reappointed for academic year 1994-95, she instituted the instant action, advancing numerous federal and state law claims. We are considering the Defendants' motion for summary judgment which, for the reasons that follow, will be granted.

 I. INTRODUCTION

 A. The Appointment Process

 The renewal process for non-tenured faculty members at Clarion is outlined in a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") between the State System of Higher Education and the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties. A faculty member who wishes to be reappointed submits a copy of his or her curriculum vitae to the Evaluation and Tenure Committee of the faculty member's department. *fn2"

 Additionally, the faculty member is observed each semester by two peers from his or her department. These observations take place in regularly scheduled classes. An "observation report" is prepared by the observer and shared with the faculty member. The reports then become part of the documentation for the faculty member's annual review.

 Other material may also be submitted to the Evaluation and Tenure Committee by the faculty member, including syllabi, tests, and handouts. The Committee examines the data and provides a written report concerning the faculty member's overall performance. It then submits its report and recommendation for renewal or non-renewal to the Department Chair.

 The Department Chair also observes the faculty member and completes an observation report that is shared with the faculty member. The Department Chair reviews the report of the Committee, as well as his or her observation report, then makes a recommendation to the Dean of the College concerning renewal.

 The Dean receives the Committee report and the Department Chair's report and reviews all documentation related to teaching performance. The Dean prepares a report on the faculty member for the Provost, who reviews all materials and forwards the information to the President of the University. The President reviews all available materials and issues a final decision on whether the faculty member should be reappointed.

 B. Academic Year 1992-1993

 1. The Committee

 In the fall of 1992, Plaintiff submitted a curriculum vitae, peer evaluations, and her fall 1992 evaluations to the Department of Education's Evaluation and Tenure Committee ("the Committee") in order to be considered for renewal in academic year 1993-94. However, a problem arose when Plaintiff refused to sign the evaluation of Dr. Robert Baldwin, a member of the Committee. [SMF P 46]. *fn3" Plaintiff requested that the evaluation be voided, and insisted that any negative comments about her teaching be removed from the evaluation. [SMF PP 46-47]. In the Spring of 1993, Plaintiff refused to sign an evaluation by another faculty member, Dr. Richard Couch. [SMF 51]. In addition, Plaintiff's student evaluations for the fall semester were lower than those of Linda Payne, another new faculty member. [SMF P 48].

 The Committee recommended that Plaintiff be renewed, but suggested that Plaintiff review the student evaluations to identify strategies for change. [SMF P 54]. In addition, each Committee member offered to consult with Plaintiff and provide her with assistance in teaching. [Id.]

 2. The Department Chair

 The Department Chair, Dr. Kathleen Smith, observed one of Plaintiff's classes on October 28, 1992. [SMF P 78]. She prepared a written description of her observation and provided it to the Plaintiff on December 5, 1992. [SMF P 79]. However, Plaintiff refused to sign the evaluation. [Id.] In addition, Dr. Smith met with Plaintiff in December 1992, to discuss written student complaints she had received about the Plaintiff, and supplied Plaintiff with redacted copies of the complaints. [SMF PP 80, 82]. The complaints related to Plaintiff's treatment of students, her organization, and her preparation. [SMF P 87]. During the meeting, Dr. Smith suggested that Plaintiff consider observing the teaching of other faculty members within the Department because that approach had been successful with another faculty member who experienced difficulties. [SMF P 84].

 
It is with reservation that I recommend Dr. Patricia Elmore for a second year of probationary service. In my opinion, it is imperative that students' perceptions of Dr. Elmore demonstrate marked improvement in the coming semester.
 
I am further concerned that some type of resolution couldn't be reached in reference to the 2 observation reports submitted by Dr. Baldwin and myself, as this condition has the potential to impede faculty cohesiveness and strain colleague relationships.

 [Defs.' R. at 408].

 3. The Dean

 The Dean of the College of Education and Human Resources, Dr. Charles Duke, has the responsibility to independently review each faculty member annually to determine whether that individual should be renewed for another year. [SMF P 104]. The Dean considers the recommendation of the Committee, the Department Chair's evaluation, student evaluations, submissions by the faculty member, and any other data gathered by the Dean regarding the faculty member. [SMF P 107].

 Dean Duke prepared a draft of his evaluation of the Plaintiff for academic year 1992-93. [SMF P 105]. The material he reviewed included the recommendations of the Committee and Dr. Smith, as well as the Fall 1992 evaluations of Plaintiff. [SMF PP 108-09]. In addition, Dean Duke took into account information he received from students in Plaintiff's class in the middle of the Fall 1992 semester. [SMF PP 109-110]. The students expressed concerns about Plaintiff's lack of organization, changing of assignment deadlines, and her attitude in responding to student questions. [SMF P 112].

 Dean Duke then met with Plaintiff to discuss his evaluation of her. [SMF P 106]. During the meeting, he addressed Plaintiff's student evaluations, student complaints, and problems related to her teaching. [SMF P 116]. In addition, he suggested methods for Plaintiff to incorporate into her teaching in order to correct some of her classroom problems. [SMF P 117]. On February 25, 1993, Dean Duke forwarded his evaluation to the University Provost, wherein he recommended that Plaintiff be appointed for another year. [SMF 105].

 4. The President

 The President of Clarion University, Dr. Diane Reinhard, is charged with the responsibility of reviewing the performance of faculty members whose positions are renewed on an annual basis. [SMF P 127]. The President reviews the Dean's report, the Department Chair's evaluation, the Committee's recommendation, as well as all other available data, including student evaluations, peer evaluations, and the faculty member's curriculum vitae. [SMF P 128]. She then makes an independent decision on each faculty member's teaching status and determines whether that individual should be renewed. [SMF P 129].

 President Reinhard reviewed Plaintiff's performance for academic year 1992-93, and determined that she should be renewed. However, in her letter to Plaintiff on March 17, 1993, informing Plaintiff of her decision, President Reinhard urged Plaintiff to work with Dr. Smith or other faculty members to address areas of teaching weakness identified by students. [SMF P 136].

 C. Academic Year 1993-94

 1. The Committee

 In the Fall of 1993, the Committee met to consider whether Plaintiff should be appointed for a third year. The Committee addressed a number of student complaints about Plaintiff's effectiveness as a teacher. [SMF P 56]. One member of the Committee stated that students visited her office on a dozen occasions to voice complaints about Plaintiff. [SMF P 57]. The types of complaints included:

 [SMF P 58]. In addition, students complained to other faculty members, and were advised that the protocol was to seek out the professor to discuss concerns. [SMF P 59]. Students were also told that he or she had the option of discussing complaints through the chain of command -- the Department Chair, the Dean, the Provost, and the University President. [Id. ]. The Committee reviewed the materials submitted by Plaintiff, as ...


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