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Daphne R. Chandler v. University of Pennsylvania

February 28, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: McLaughlin, J.


This employment discrimination suit arises from the University of Pennsylvania's decision not to hire the plaintiff, who is African American, for a position in its Positive Psychology Center. The plaintiff, Dr. Daphne Chandler, argues that the University of Pennsylvania ("Penn") refused to hire her on account of her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Penn has moved to dismiss Chandler's complaint for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

The Court will grant Penn's motion and dismiss Chandler's § 1981 claim without prejudice.

I. Factual Background

The facts are drawn from the complaint, accompanying exhibits submitted by the plaintiff, and materials incorporated in the complaint by reference, all of which the Court may consider in deciding a motion to dismiss. Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006). The Court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party, while disregarding any legal conclusions. See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009).

A. The Parties

Dr. Daphne Chandler holds a Ph.D in educational

psychology from the University of Wisconsin and has worked as a school psychologist and clinical evaluator. In addition, Chandler has conducted scholarly research in the field of positive psychology. Chandler's research is primarily devoted to psychological constructs, such as hope, resilience, and forgiveness, in African American communities, particularly among African American youth. Chandler describes her research as "insert[ing] an orientation toward social justice" into the field of positive psychology, focusing on, among other things, issues of multiculturalism to better understand and identify the psychological needs of all communities. Compl. at 2, 7-9; PX B (3/23/12 Cover Letter & Daphne R. Chandler Curriculum Vitae ("CV")).*fn1

The defendant, Penn, is a private university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During the fall of 2011, 2.8% of Penn's faculty was African American or black, while white individuals made up 79.2% of that body. For that same period, 5.1% of the graduate student population at Penn was African American or black. Compl. at 2, 5 (citing Diversity at Penn: Facts and Figures, http://diversity. facts_figures/ (last visited Feb. 21, 2013)). These figures are low, relative to the percentage of the overall U.S. population that identifies as black. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 13.1% of people living in the United States are black.*fn2 U.S. Census Bureau, State & County QuickFacts: USA, (last visited Feb. 21, 2013).

Penn operates the Positive Psychology Center ("Center"), which was established in 2003 by Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, a psychologist at the university. The Center aims to "promote research, training, education, and the dissemination of Positive Psychology," a subfield of psychology dedicated to "the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive." Compl. at 5 (quotation marks and alteration omitted).

B. Chandler's Application to the Center On March 23, 2012, Chandler applied for a post-doctoral

fellow position at the Center. Id. at 2. According to Penn's advertisement listing the open position, the fellow would be hired to "analyze data and prepare publications for a large research grant on Positive Health among Army Soldiers." The fellow would also work with Dr. Seligman and other senior psychologists at the Center. Penn listed as a requirement for the position "[e]xperience with large-scale data sets using advanced statistics, as well as an understanding of the interface between mental and physical health." Individuals with a Ph.D in psychology, health and human development, social epidemiology, or a related field were invited to apply. PX A (Position Description).

As part of her application, Chandler submitted a cover letter, a CV containing a picture of herself, and two articles that she had authored. Compl. at 2-3, 8, 12; PX B. The CV Chandler submitted was eight pages long. It listed her current positions as a quality assurance supervisor and clinical evaluator at Germantown Psychological Associates and as an educational psychology consultant. The CV also detailed, among other things, Chandler's educational background, licenses and certifications, publications, research projects, workshops and presentations, and prior professional experience. PX B.

Chandler states that "her experience with 'large-scale data using advanced statistics' is not readily apparent ...

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