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Roseboro v. Lincoln University

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

September 6, 2017

LINCOLN UNIVERSITY, et al., Defendants.


          Tucker, J.

         Presently before the Court are Defendants Lincoln University, Robert Jennings, and Valerie Harrison's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint or to Strike Improper Allegations (Doc. 9), Defendant Denise Wilbur's Motion to Join Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint or to Strike Improper Allegations (Doc. 20), Plaintiff's Response in Opposition to Defendants' Motion (Doc. 21), Defendants' Reply in Support of their Motion (Doc. 24), and Plaintiff's Sur-Reply (Doc. 27). Upon careful consideration of the Parties' submissions and exhibits, and for the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.


         A. The Parties

         Clevell S. Roseboro, II (“Plaintiff”) was an Associate Professor and Director of Libraries on tenure track at Lincoln University. (Compl. ¶ 18, Doc. 1.) Lincoln University (“University”) is a state-related institution of higher education and an instrumentality of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (Compl. ¶ 10.) Dr. Robert R. Jennings was President of the University during the events that led to the current action, and through November 2014. (Compl. ¶ 11.) Dr. Valerie Harrison is General Counsel of the University. (Compl. ¶ 12.) Ms. Kimberly Lloyd is Chair of the Board of Trustees of the University. (Compl. ¶ 13.) Ms. Dana Flint is Chair of the Faculty Judicial Committee of the University. (Compl. ¶ 14.) Ms. Denise Gaither-Hardy and Mr. Safro Kwame are members of the Faculty Judicial Committee. (Compl. ¶¶ 15-16.) Ms. Denise Wilbur is Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University. (Compl. ¶ 17.)[1]

         B. Plaintiff's Employment with the University

         On July 1, 2013, Plaintiff accepted an offer from and entered into an employment contract with the University to become an Associate Professor and Director of Libraries. (Compl. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff was not tenured, but his position was tenure-track. (Compl ¶ 1.) Plaintiff's term of employment was from August 2013 to August 2014. (Compl. ¶ 19.) Plaintiff's contract was subject to the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) between the University and the Lincoln University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (“Union”). (Id.)

         Under the CBA, only adequate cause justifies the dismissal of an untenured faculty member before the expiration of his employment term. (Compl. ¶ 20.) An adequate cause finding is proper when a faculty member's conduct is prejudicial to the University. (Id.) Neither the CBA nor University policy requires the University to conduct a hearing before a faculty member is terminated. (Compl. ¶ 22.)

         The CBA permits faculty members to appeal termination decisions to the Faculty Judicial Committee. (Id.) However, the University's Board of Trustees may reverse the Faculty Judicial Committee's decisions. (Id.) The Board of Trustees is not required to provide an explanation for its rulings, and its decisions are final. (Id.)

         The CBA does not permit faculty members to challenge termination decisions through the Union. (Id.)

         C. Events Leading up to Plaintiff's Termination

         On July 12, 2014, Plaintiff and his then fiancé, Thea Flores, became involved in a verbal altercation when Ms. Flores accused Plaintiff of infidelity. (Compl. ¶ 23.) Ms. Flores assaulted Plaintiff, who then fled to his office to spend the night. (Compl. ¶ 24.) The next day, Ms. Flores ransacked Plaintiff's office. (Id.) Ms. Flores returned home and told Plaintiff's daughter, that Plaintiff had inappropriate pictures of his daughter and other women on his computer. (Compl. ¶ 25.) Ms. Flores also told Plaintiff's daughter that University Police had charged Plaintiff with abuse against Ms. Flores. (Id.) Plaintiff denies both allegations. (Id.)

         On July 13, 2014, Plaintiff's daughter made a voluntary statement to University Police. (Compl. ¶ 26.) Her statement was incorporated into the University's Police Incident Report (“Incident Report”). (Id.) The Incident Report stated that Plaintiff accidently touched his daughter's breast with his forearm. (Compl. ¶ 34.) However, she understood that the touch was inadvertent. (Id.) The Incident Report also stated that Plaintiff had asked his daughter whether she was a virgin and if she had engaged in oral sex. (Id.) The Incident Report further provided that Plaintiff's daughter was never sexually abused or mistreated. (Id.)

         D. Plaintiff's Termination

         1. The Statement of Charges

         On July 14, 2014, Ms. Wilbur informed Plaintiff that he was being placed on administrative leave without providing a reason. (Compl. ¶ 27.) On July 22, 2014, Plaintiff received a letter from Dr. Jennings, titled “Statement of Charges-Adequate Cause Dismissal, ” (“Statement of Charges”) informing Plaintiff of his dismissal, effective immediately, and before the expiration of his employment term. (Compl. ¶ 28.) The Statement of Charges accused Plaintiff of being “involved in acts of violence that departed from accepted standards of professional ethics, neglect of duty, and illegal conduct prejudicial to the University.” (Compl. ¶ 29.) Further, Plaintiff was accused of giving a non-University employee access to a University computer and “engaging in inappropriate or offensive words and conduct that created a sexually hostile environment.” (Id.) The letter instructed Plaintiff to remove all of his possessions and vacate University housing.

         Plaintiff alleges that the University did not investigate any of the allegations and the Statement of Charges relied “exclusively” on the Incident Report. (Compl. ¶¶ 29, 31.)

         2. The Faculty Judicial Committee Hearing

         On July 27, 2014, Plaintiff requested a hearing before the Faculty Judicial Committee to appeal his termination pursuant to the CBA. (Compl. ¶ 36.) On September 10, 2014, the Faculty Judicial Committee convened a hearing. (Compl. ¶ 37.) At the hearing, Dr. Harrison, Dr. Jennings, Ms. Wilbur, and Plaintiff testified.

         Dr. Harrison testified that Ms. Flores' attorney told him that the attorney had information that Plaintiff molested his daughter. (Compl. ¶ 40.) Dr. Harrison also testified that Plaintiff was under a criminal investigation for the molestation allegation, but the investigation had stalled because Plaintiff's daughter was uncooperative. (Compl. ¶ 44.)

         Dr. Jennings and Ms. Wilbur repeated the molestation allegation during the hearing, and Dr. Jennings also testified that the University had no evidence that Plaintiff “was violent in any way.” (Compl. ¶¶ 38, 41.)

         Defendants did not interview Plaintiffs daughter. (Compl. 49.) Neither Plaintiffs daughter nor Ms. Flores testified during the Faculty Judicial Committee hearing to substantiate the allegations against Plaintiff. (Compl. ¶ 51g.)

         Plaintiff testified that he did not ask his daughter whether anyone had performed oral sex on her. (Compl. ¶ 49.) Plaintiff alleges that his daughter likely falsified the claim because she was angry with him. (Compl. ¶ 49.) Plaintiff claims that ...

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