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Ferencin v. Lehigh University

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 27, 2019

ANGELA SCOTT FERENCIN, Plaintiff,
v.
LEHIGH UNIVERSITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          EDWARD G. SMITH, J.

         In this matter, a former university employee alleges that the university violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because she was a victim of a hostile work environment based on her race and gender, which ultimately resulted in her constructive discharge from the university. After a non-jury trial, the court finds that the plaintiff failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the university violated Title VII because, inter alia, she did not show (1) any credible evidence that Lehigh or its employees intentionally discriminated against her because of her race or gender and (2) even if there was any discrimination, it was not severe or pervasive, and it would not have detrimentally affected a reasonable person in like circumstances. At bottom, the plaintiff failed to show that her working conditions at the university were so intolerable that a reasonable person in the plaintiff's position would have felt compelled to resign. Accordingly, the court will enter judgment in favor of the university and against the plaintiff.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The plaintiff, Angela Scott Ferencin, commenced this action by filing a complaint against the defendant, Lehigh University (“Lehigh”), on April 9, 2018. Doc. No. 1. In the complaint, the plaintiff alleges that she is an African-American female whom Lehigh, “a private institution of higher education, ” first employed on May 31, 2012, as the Director of Academic Diversity and Outreach. Compl. at ¶¶ 4-6, Doc. No. 1. The plaintiff remained at Lehigh until her constructive discharge on June 30, 2017. Id. at ¶ 5. At the time of the constructive discharge, the plaintiff “had been reduced in rank to Program Director, Community Education Initiative.” Id. at ¶ 6.

         The plaintiff alleges that during her approximately five years of employment with Lehigh, she encountered “working conditions so intolerable that she felt compelled to resign.” Id. at ¶ 8. Those working conditions included, inter alia: (1) Dr. Henry Odi, Lehigh's Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, yelling at her and telling her that “‘You are NEVER to disagree with me in public . . . by email or in person. You do not know your place! . . . You do not know your place. . . . to [sic] be successful here at Lehigh, you cannot disagree with leadership[;]” (2) Dr. Odi, without consulting the plaintiff, undertaking to defund a Lehigh program for which more than $80, 000 had been raised by advising current donors to cease their contributions; (3) a “younger, white woman who [the plaintiff] had hired two years earlier” accused the plaintiff of retaliating against her;[1] (4) despite the investigation of retaliation resolving in the plaintiff's favor, Lehigh placed her under a new supervisor, who had only two years of relevant experience; (5) despite the plaintiff having 25 years' experience in higher education, Lehigh's Vice President of Human Resources told her that the failure to comply with her new supervisor's request could be seen as insubordination; and (6) the plaintiff's new position required her to work in a small cubicle. Id. at ¶¶ 8-12. The plaintiff asserts that during her employment with Lehigh “there were not any [other] instances of [Lehigh] subjecting white men, white women, or African American men to the hostile conditions to which she was subjected at Lehigh.” Id. at ¶ 14.

         The plaintiff asserts a cause of action under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1).[2] Id. at ¶ 1. She seeks monetary damages, attorney's fees and costs, and any other relief that the court would deem proper. Id. at p. 4.

         Lehigh filed an answer and affirmative defenses to the complaint on June 27, 2018. Doc. No. 5. This matter later proceeded through a non-jury trial before the undersigned from July 8, 2019, through July 11, 2019. Thereafter, the parties submitted proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. Doc. Nos. 25, 42, 43, 46. This matter is now ripe for disposition.[3]

         II. FINDINGS OF FACT

         After carefully considering the evidence presented during the non-jury trial in this matter from July 8, 2019, to July 11, 2019, and, after assigning such weight to the evidence as the court deems proper and disregarding the testimony that the court found to lack credibility, the pertinent facts are as follows:

         A. Lehigh's Hiring of the Plaintiff as Director of Academic Diversity and Outreach

         1. After completing her doctoral degree coursework at Rowan University in May 2012, the plaintiff wanted to return to a higher education administration position.[4] 7-8-19 Tr. I at 9-10; Def.'s Ex. 3. As part of this endeavor, she applied for the position of Director of Academic Diversity and Outreach at Lehigh. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 9-10.

         2. The plaintiff is an African-American woman. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 95.

         3. Lehigh created the Director of Academic Diversity and Outreach position after Dr. Henry Odi was promoted to Vice Provost for Academic Diversity in 2011. June 21, 2019 Videotaped Dep. of Henri Odi, Ed.D. (“Odi Dep.”) at 19.[5] After Dr. Odi's promotion, he requested that Provost Patrick Farrell create the Director of Academic Diversity and Outreach position to continue the programs Dr. Odi previously administered while Dr. Odi focused on the “University-wide effort that [he] was hired to do.” Odi Dep. at 19-20.

         4. At the time of Dr. Odi's promotion, he had been employed at Lehigh for approximately 25 years.[6] Odi Dep. at 7.

         5. Dr. Odi is an African-American male who became a citizen of the United States after emigrating from Nigeria.[7] 7-8-19 Tr. I at 95; Odi Dep. at 10.

         6. Dr. Odi's work experience has included affirmative action work for Lehigh, outreach work, and undergraduate and graduate student recruitment to help Lehigh diversify its work force and student body. Odi Dep. at 12.

         7. Dr. Odi's position at Lehigh involved increasing participation and success of under-represented minorities at Lehigh. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 100.

         8. As with Dr. Odi, the Director of Academic Diversity and Outreach fell under Provost Farrell's “stem” at Lehigh.[8] 7-8-19 Tr. I at 13. Dr. Odi reported directly to Provost Farrell.[9] Odi Dep. at 9; 7-10-19 Tr. I at 4.

         9. Dr. Odi assembled a search committee, comprised of Lehigh staff and faculty, for reviewing applicants for the Director of Academic Diversity and Outreach position. Odi Dep. at 98; 7-8-19 Tr. I at 11.

         10. Jacob Napoleon (“Leon”) Washington (“Mr. Washington”) was the head of Lehigh's search committee.[10] 7-8-19 Tr. I at 11, 12; 7-10-19 Tr. I at 58.

         11. Dr. Odi participated in reviewing each candidate who came to campus for an interview. Odi Dep. at 98.

         12. Approximately two months after applying for the Director of Academic Diversity and Outreach position, the plaintiff participated in a phone interview with Lehigh's search committee. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 11. She then came to Lehigh's campus for a two-day, on-campus interview in late March 2012. Id.

         13. Mr. Washington noted that during the interview process, the plaintiff impressed the search committee because she was very smart and represented herself well. 7-10-19 Tr. I at 59. In addition, she had finished all the coursework for her doctoral degree and was starting the research for her dissertation. Id.

         14. During the two-day, on-campus interview, the plaintiff met with Dr. Odi at his office at 618 Broadhead Avenue in Bethlehem. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 12. The plaintiff and Dr. Odi went on a vehicle tour of Bethlehem in which Dr. Odi “shared highlights of the city with [her] and drove through apartment complexes to show [her] housing options.” Id.

         15. On a later date, Dr. Odi offered the position of Director of Academic Diversity and Outreach to the plaintiff and she accepted the offer.[11] 7-8-19 Tr. I at 13. Dr. Odi was instrumental in hiring the plaintiff. Id. at 95-96.

         16. A Lehigh human resources representative sent an offer letter to the plaintiff and with the letter was a position description for the Director of Academic Diversity and Outreach. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 14. This position description matched what the plaintiff expected when she applied for the job. Id.

         17. After the plaintiff accepted the offer to work at Lehigh, Dr. Odi sent her a confirmation letter in which he, inter alia, indicated that he was “looking forward to working with you, as are others across campus, to leverage our collective work to promote and advance diversity, inclusion, engagement and outreach.” Def.'s Ex. 4; 7-8-19 Tr. I at 105-06.

         18. The plaintiff was excited to embark on her role with Lehigh because (1) she had been in higher education for approximately 25 years and was committed to working with students and supporting a college or university, and (2) the position would allow her to work with college students as well as local middle and high school students, including students from underrepresented and low income areas. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 15.

         19. The plaintiff's new position provided multiple opportunities that interested her, including, inter alia: (1) the S.T.A.R. (Students That Are Ready) Academy, which had a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) focus and allowed students to come to Lehigh's campus and explore opportunities there; (2) the High School Scholars Program, which provided opportunities for high school students to take courses at Lehigh and earn college credits; (3) the “LEAPS” program, which involves students from the Milton Hershey School;[12] and (4) oversight of the annual Lehigh Valley Science and Engineering Fair (the “Fair”) in which local students come to Lehigh to showcase their science projects for Lehigh faculty, local teachers, and engineers. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 15-18; see also Odi Dep. at 13-14 (explaining that plaintiff worked primarily with three or four programs, including S.T.A.R. Academy, High School Scholars Program, and the Fair; later, plaintiff was involved with LEAPS).

         B. The Plaintiff's Experiences with Dr. Odi

         20. Dr. Odi was the plaintiff's direct supervisor while she served as the Director of Academic Diversity and Outreach. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 19.

         21. The plaintiff indicated that she had minimal interaction with Dr. Odi. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 18. Other than one biweekly one-on-one meeting, she stated that they did not regularly communicate. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 18.

         22. The plaintiff indicated that Dr. Odi's office door was always closed. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 39.

         23. The plaintiff's office was located no more than two feet away from the door to Dr. Odi's office. Tr. of Specific Witness Testimony, July 9, 2019 (“7-9-19 Tr. I”) at 14, Doc. No. 34.

         24. The plaintiff attempted to be collegial with Dr. Odi by knocking on his door, opening the door, and saying good morning each morning, and by knocking on the door, opening the door, and saying good night at the end of the day. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 39.

         25. Although the plaintiff asked Dr. Odi if they could have weekly one-on-one meetings, Dr. Odi agreed to only having biweekly meetings. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 18-19.

         26. Dr. Odi occasionally missed the biweekly meeting.[13] 7-8-19 Tr. I at 19, 41.

         27. For the biweekly meetings, the plaintiff would provide Dr. Odi with an agenda for the meetings, and she gave him the opportunity to obtain updates on everything she was doing, including work with the S.T.A.R. Academy. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 19.

         28. The plaintiff was dissatisfied with the limited interaction with Dr. Odi. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 39, 40. She explained that they “just did not talk and that was challenging to me to be reporting to someone who [she] thought wanted [her] there and his actions showed otherwise.” 7-8-19 Tr. I at 40.

         29. Concerning the S.T.A.R. Academy, Dr. Odi's wife, Patricia Odi, designed and founded the S.T.A.R. Academy in 1988-89 when she was working as the Assistant Director of Admissions at Lehigh. Odi Dep. at 15-17.

         30. The S.T.A.R. Academy is a specifically designed, originally year-long program to assist and educate students of color with the process of applying to college, obtaining financial aid for college, and other aspects of gaining admittance and achieving success in college. Odi Dep. at 16, 36; 7-8-19 Tr. I at 105. It is a one-on-one program with up to 100 underserved and unrepresented minority middle and high school students matching up with undergraduate and graduate students at Lehigh and 15 to 25 Lehigh professors. Odi Dep. at 36. They had as many as 12 of the middle or high school students go to college in a given year. Id. at 38-39.

         31. Bill Beattie, a Lehigh alumnus, funded the S.T.A.R. Academy, and he and Dr. Odi had a “very strong relationship.” Odi Dep. at 28-29. Mr. Beattie provided a significant financial donation to Lehigh to fund the S.T.A.R. Academy long-term. Id. at 29-30.

         32. Although Mrs. Odi ceased working at Lehigh in 1992, she continued to work with the S.T.A.R. Academy. Odi Dep. at 18-19. She did so on a volunteer basis.[14] Id. at 19.

         33. Dr Odi was previously personally involved in oversight and day-to-day operations of the S.T.A.R. Academy. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 19, 59; Def.'s Ex. 5. He continued to be involved in oversight of the S.T.A.R. Academy after the plaintiff started at Lehigh, and he did not pass off oversight of it to the plaintiff after she started. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 19-20.

         34. The plaintiff, with the assistance of a colleague, Debra Rubart, identified multiple concerns with the S.T.A.R. Academy. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 20-23. Those concerns included what the plaintiff believed were risk management issues, the possible misappropriation of funds, and the possible inappropriate promotion of a religious theme at a secular university. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 20- 21. In addition, the plaintiff believed that Dr. Odi should have passed off responsibility for the program to the plaintiff because it was part of her job description. Id. at 19-20, 25.

         35. The plaintiff did not believe that Dr. Odi had the right to decline to pass along all responsibilities for the S.T.A.R. Academy to her during her first year of employment, even though he was her supervisor, because responsibility for the S.T.A.R. Academy was in her job description. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 6-7; see 7-8-19 Tr. I at 25 (“And what inevitably happened in . . . that year was that the S.T.A.R. Academy and the oversights [sic] and the implementation of the program was officially passed off to me. It was on my job description from day one.”); Def.'s Ex. 6, Apr. 24, 2013 Mem. from Pl. to Dr. Odi (“Since May 31, 2012, I have had the responsibilities in my job description of ‘oversee[ing] the management and expansion of the well-established existing academic outreach programs, i.e. the S.T.A.R. Academies - summer and academic year programs' and ‘manag[ing] budgets' in the Office of Academic Outreach.”); 7-8-19 Tr. I at 58-59 (plaintiff indicating that she should have been responsible for design and implementation of S.T.A.R. Academy but was not during her first year at Lehigh because Dr. Odi and his wife ran academy from their home).

         36. The plaintiff and Ms. Rubart met with Dr. Odi to discuss these concerns, and Dr. Odi told them that he would “take care of things.”[15] 7-8-19 Tr. I at 23.

         37. The plaintiff believed that Dr. Odi was not addressing the concerns she identified, so she and Ms. Rubart met with Frank Roth, the general counsel at Lehigh, to share with him what they found. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 23-24. The plaintiff also discussed her concerns with the former director of risk management for Lehigh, and Patricia Mann (“Ms. Mann”), the Director of Administration in the Provost Office. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 24; Tr. of Excerpt of Trial, July 9, 2019 (“7-9-19 Tr. II”) at 6, Doc. No. 38.

         38. The plaintiff's complaints about Dr. Odi and Mrs. Odi's roles with the S.T.A.R. Academy, including Dr. Odi not turning over oversight of the program to the plaintiff upon her arrival at Lehigh, did not mention race or gender discrimination.

         39. Dr. Odi did not decline to turn over oversight and responsibility of the S.T.A.R. Academy to the plaintiff because he was discriminating against her based on her race or gender or because he had any discriminatory animus toward her.[16]

         40. Dr. Odi continuing to operate the S.T.A.R. Academy after the plaintiff began her employment at Lehigh, including allowing his wife to continue to be involved with the program, until ultimately transferring oversight of the program to the plaintiff, did not create a hostile work environment on the basis of race or gender, either alone or in combination with other interactions that Dr. Odi had with the plaintiff in the workplace.

         41. In April 2013, after the plaintiff had been in her position for approximately one year, Dr. Odi passed off the S.T.A.R. Academy for her to oversee and implement.[17] 7-8-19 Tr. I at 19, 25, 26; Def.'s Ex. 5; Odi Dep. at 27-28.

         42. The plaintiff responded to Dr. Odi's April 12, 2013 letter by sending him a memorandum dated April 24, 2013. Odi Dep. at 32; Def.'s Ex. 6. In the memorandum, the plaintiff, inter alia, asked for autonomy over the S.T.A.R. Academy budget and the sole responsibility for maintaining relationships with donors. Def.'s Ex. 6.

         43. Dr. Odi did not believe that it was a good practice to transition work with donors to the plaintiff because he had created and fostered those relationships over many years and the donors were still comfortable dealing with him. Odi Dep. at 33.

         44. The plaintiff asserts that Dr. Odi rarely asked her about the S.T.A.R. Academy after passing oversight of it to her. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 19.

         45. On October 1, 2012, Dr. Odi confronted the plaintiff in their office over what he deemed were prior actions by her that contradicted him in a public setting. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 42-44; Odi Dep. at 20-24. Dr. Odi requested that the plaintiff not challenge him in public and, if she disagreed with something he said, she should speak to him privately about it.[18] 7-8-19 Tr. I at 43; Odi Dep. at 23-24.

         46. The plaintiff believes that in the workplace of higher education, a supervisor should not tell a supervisee not to disagree with them in public because individuals in higher education often have disagreements. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 107.

         47. The plaintiff does not believe that Dr. Odi had the right to determine the tasks she should or should not do. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 109. She believes that an employee's job description determines the employee's tasks and responsibilities. Id. at 109-10.

         48. Although doing so was often not part of her job description, the plaintiff would work with “community partners” on a regular basis. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 27. She did so to ensure “that the programs and the initiatives and the funds that were so very important to doing great work that they were stewarded well.” Id. The plaintiff believes that she “made great relationships and partners with folks both near and far.” Id.

         49. No community partner told the plaintiff that she rubbed them the wrong way. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 27.

         50. Dr. Odi never conducted a performance review for the plaintiff, and she “did not feel comfortable” with the fact that she never received any performance evaluations at Lehigh. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 41. She asked Dr. Odi for a performance review, but he did not give her one. Id.

         51. The plaintiff sought a performance review from Dr. Odi in part because she did not regularly communicate with him and thought that it would be an opportunity for her to “develop goals for [her]self, develop feedback, collaborate with him and really make things happen.” 7-8-19 Tr. I at 41.

         52. Dr. Odi never completed a performance evaluation for the plaintiff even though he had been trained to do so. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 41-42; Odi Dep. at 53.

         53. Dr. Odi acknowledged that it was unfortunate that he did not conduct yearly performance reviews of the plaintiff because it was part of the best practices at Lehigh. Odi Dep. at 53, 101-02. He takes full responsibility for failing to do that and regrets not doing so. Id. He has conducted written performance reviews with other individuals who have worked for him. Id. at 53-54.

         54. Dr. Odi did not fail to complete any performance review for the plaintiff because he was discriminating against her based upon her race or gender. It is unclear why he failed to conduct a performance review, and it is possible that doing so would have improved his working relationship with the plaintiff.

         55. During her time at Lehigh, the plaintiff never received a cut in her salary; instead, each year she received an “annual merit increase” which ranged between 2.5% and 3.5% of her salary. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 28. Dr. Odi recommended that the plaintiff receive annual increases in her salary. Odi Dep. at 54.

         56. The plaintiff complained about her issues with Dr. Odi to Provost Farrell. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 9.

         57. In June 2013, Dr. Odi had a meeting with Provost Farrell and the plaintiff to discuss the issues in their working relationship. Odi Dep. at 40. According to Dr. Odi, this “was probably one of the worst meetings that I've been a part of in my time at Lehigh” because the plaintiff blamed him for everything. Id. at 40-41.

         58. Human Resources recommended that the plaintiff and Dr. Odi work through their issues via a third-party mediator.[19] 7-8-19 Tr. I at 55; 7-9-19 Tr. I at 14.

         59. The plaintiff met with the mediator for a 90-minute session. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 55-56.

         60. Dr. Odi refused to participate in the mediation.[20] 7-8-19 Tr. I at 57‒58; 7-9-19 Tr. I at 15; Odi Dep. at 41‒42, 45.

         61. The plaintiff never heard anything else from Dr. Odi or Lehigh about mediation. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 58.

         62. Although the plaintiff speculates to the contrary, there is no credible evidence that Dr. Odi refused to participate in mediation because of her race and/or gender. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 15. Instead, Dr. Odi did not want to participate in any further discussions where he felt like the plaintiff was blaming him for every issue in their work relationship.

         63. The plaintiff is unaware of any mediations Dr. Odi participated in with anyone, including white men. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 15.

         64. In January 2014, Judy Zavalydriga (“Ms. Zavalydriga”), who is the Director of Employee Relations at Lehigh's Human Resources Office, reached out to the plaintiff to see how things were going with Dr. Odi. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 15; Tr. of Excerpt of Trial, July 10, 2019 (“7-10-19 Tr. II”) at 42-43, Doc. No. 39; Tr. of Excerpt of Trial, July 8, 2019 (“7-8-19 Tr. II”) at 21, Doc. No. 37; Def.'s Ex. 9. The plaintiff told Ms. Zavalydriga that she had no interest in discussing anything. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 15-16; 7-10-19 Tr. II at 43.

         65. Dr. Odi and the plaintiff continued to work together for almost three years after the discussions with Provost Farrell and the partial attempt at mediation. Odi Dep. at 50; 7-9-19 Tr. I at 16.

         66. In 2011, Lehigh started the Faculty and Staff of Color Network (“FSCN”) after an African-American female, who was Lehigh's assistant director in multi-cultural affairs, approached Dr. Odi about a support group for staff of color at Lehigh. Odi Dep. at 56-57. The FSCN would provide networking and fellowship opportunities and reach out to Lehigh's undergraduate and graduate students. Id. at 57; 7-9-19 Tr. I at 21.

         67. Dr. Odi could not chair the FSCN, so he asked two African-American women, Lydia Benjamin and Jennifer Swan, to co-chair it. Odi Dep. at 57; 7-9-19 Tr. I at 22.

         68. The FSCN was “highly successful, ” and each year they would organize a welcome reception for all new faculty at Lehigh. Odi Dep. at 57.

         69. After the plaintiff started at Lehigh, she became Dr. Odi's liaison to the FSCN. Odi Dep. at 58; 7-9-19 Tr. I at 21-22.

         70. In 2014/early 2015, Dr. Odi received feedback from the FSCN co-chairs that the plaintiff was acting as a co-chair instead of as a liaison. Odi Dep. at 59; 7-9-19 Tr. I at 22. The co-chairs did not want the plaintiff to continue to act as a liaison.[21] 7-9-19 Tr. I at 22.

         71. Based on the co-chairs raising this issue, Dr. Odi met with the co-chairs and the plaintiff to discuss the responsibilities of co-chairs versus the liaison. Odi Dep. at 59-60, 61. Dr. Odi also drafted a document dated January 22, 2015, which provided a position description for the FSCN liaison. Id. at 60-61; 7-9-19 Tr. I at 22-23.

         72. After providing the plaintiff with the liaison position description, she informed Dr. Odi that she was not going to serve as the liaison anymore. Odi Dep. at 61.

         73. Umoja House is a residential building for students of color (specifically, African-American and Hispanic students) at Lehigh that Dr. Odi co-founded. Odi Dep. at 61-62; 7-9-19 Tr. I at 26, 27; see also 7-9-19 Tr. I at 26 (plaintiff agreeing that Umoja House was one of number of “themed residence halls where juniors and seniors can choose to live” and it “has a focus on fostering a sense of community through a shared exploration of diversity and multiculturalism”). It was created to help students of color foster a community and so the faculty can interact with these students at receptions or dinners. Odi Dep. at 62; 7-9-19 Tr. I at 26.

         74. When the plaintiff started working under Dr. Odi, he made her a staff adviser for Umoja House. Odi Dep. at 63; 7-9-19 Tr. I at 26.

         75. The plaintiff approached Dr. Odi because she learned that certain incidents occurred in the house, one of which resulted in the creation of a police report. Odi Dep. at 63-64. She wanted to see the police reports, but Dr. Odi expressed to her the need to discuss with Student Affairs about her ability to see the reports. Id. at 64.

         76. Dr. Odi and the plaintiff met with individuals, including Sharon Basso, the Dean of Students, to discuss the reports, but the meeting did not go well because the plaintiff blamed them for excluding her from access to the reports. Odi Dep. at 64.

         77. The plaintiff also had an issue pertaining to the Umoja House when the Dean of Students' Office chose a Griffin (Lehigh's version of a dorm's residential advisor) for Umoja House despite the plaintiff's opposition to that person being the right fit for the house. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 128, 129.

         78. In February 2016, the plaintiff informed Dr. Odi that she would no longer continue as an advisor for Umoja House. Odi Dep. at 63; Def.'s Ex. 11; 7-9-19 Tr. I at 27, 32-35.

         79. Dr. Odi sent the plaintiff a memorandum dated October 15, 2016, in which he laid out his expectations for her for the year. Odi Dep. at 78; Def.'s Ex. 27; 7-8-19 Tr. II at 25. Dr. Odi sent the plaintiff this memorandum because he felt that the department was falling apart, and the one-on-one meetings were not very productive. Odi Dep. at 78, 108.

         80. Dr. Odi consulted with Chris Halladay (“Mr. Halladay”), the Associate Vice President of Human Resources for Lehigh, who was aware that Dr. Odi was attempting to clarify expectations with the plaintiff and he suggested that Dr. Odi memorialize the expectations in writing.[22] Odi Dep. at 78-79; 7-8-19 Tr. II at 25-26.

         81. Mr. Halladay did not assist Dr. Odi with drafting the memorandum, but he believed that Dr. Odi's document would hopefully “establish a much better flow of ability to supervise.” 7-8-19 Tr. II at 25.

         82. Mr. Halladay believed that at least some of the conflict between the plaintiff and Dr. Odi related to not effectively communicating what the expectations were. 7-8-19 Tr. II at 65.

         83. At the time he sent the memorandum to the plaintiff, Dr. Odi believed that he would continue working with the plaintiff. Odi Dep. at 80.

         84. The plaintiff felt that Dr. Odi's memorandum was “a strategy that he was using for [her] detriment.” 7-10-19 Tr. I at 41. She felt as such because she had begged him for performance evaluations for years and now, he wanted to put something in writing about his expectations. 7-10-19 Tr. I at 41.

         85. Despite the plaintiff's claims to the contrary, there is no evidence that Dr. Odi's memorandum was being used for her detriment. It is hypocritical for the plaintiff to complain of not receiving a performance review from Dr. Odi and then complain when he is finally attempting to set out his expectations for her in writing. There is no evidence that Dr. Odi was discriminating against the plaintiff based on her race or gender when he created and sent her the memorandum. Instead, he was clearly attempting to bring stability to an unstable working relationship.

         86. Dr. Odi believed that he and the plaintiff had a civil, professional working relationship. Odi Dep. at 51. Dr. Odi admitted that he was mostly hands-off with his supervision, but he indicated that he would give some oral feedback to the plaintiff. Odi Dep. at 51-52, 53.

         87. Dr. Odi believed that the plaintiff was “okay” in running her programs. Odi Dep. at 52.

         88. The plaintiff claims that Dr. Odi discriminated against her because of her African-American race. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 96.

         89. In her deposition, when asked whether Dr. Odi ever made a statement that would show an animus against African-Americans, the plaintiff stated:

So in October 2013 Henry Odi yelled at me at the top of his lungs and told me that -- and this was the actual quote -- “You do not stay in your place. Alice, who was the current president, knows her place. Patrick, who was the current provost, knows his place. You do not know your place.”
He then went on to share that I will not be successful at Lehigh University if I disagree with leadership. And he was referring to his leadership. And this was done in an office at the top of his lungs where others heard it.

Jan. 14, 2019 Dep. of Pl. (“Pl.'s Dep.”) at 37-38; see also 7-8-19 Tr. I at 97-99.

         90. Although the court does not find the plaintiff's testimony about Dr. Odi yelling at her and what he said to her to be credible, even if the court did so, his statements and tone did not show any discriminatory animus towards the plaintiff based upon her race or gender. Instead, he was articulating, perhaps not in the most productive manner, his expectations for his supervisory relationship with the plaintiff. Dr. Odi's expectation that the plaintiff not disagree with him publicly is not unreasonable or unlawful, especially considering that the evidence in the record does not describe what the plaintiff said and the context in which the plaintiff said it.

         91. The plaintiff does not recall Dr. Odi stating anything disparaging African-Americans generally. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 100. The plaintiff also is not aware of any conduct by Dr. Odi, other than with respect to her, that discriminated against any African-Americans. Id.

         92. The plaintiff also claims that Dr. Odi discriminated against her on the basis of her gender. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 100-01.

         93. In her deposition, the plaintiff indicated that when Dr. Odi yelled at her about her need to know her place, he was discriminating against her for being a woman even though his statement about knowing her place referenced both the male provost and a female executive at Lehigh. 7-8-19 Tr. I at 101-02; Pl.'s Dep. at 43-44.

         94. Dr. Odi never discouraged anyone from continuing to donate to programs administered by the plaintiff. Odi Dep. at 86. Dr. Odi never disparaged the plaintiff to any donor. Id.

         95. Dr. Odi never insulted the plaintiff, yelled at her, or had any hostility toward her as an African-American woman. Odi Dep. at 94-95.

         96. Dr. Odi never encouraged one or more of the plaintiff's colleagues not to work with her. Odi Dep. at 102.

         97. The plaintiff believes that Dr. Odi was entirely at fault and she was not at fault for issues in their working relationship. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 13.

         98. Provost Farrell did not observe Dr. Odi discriminate against women or people of color; instead, he found Dr. Odi to be a “real strong advocate[] for students of color, faculty and staff of color.” 7-10-19 Tr. I at 15-16.

         99. Provost Farrell did not observe Dr. Odi scream at anyone, and he believed that Dr. Odi was more of a conflict avoider. 7-10-19 Tr. I at 16.

         100. Provost Farrell occasionally interacted with the plaintiff on a variety of projects and he found her to be cooperative. 7-10-19 Tr. I at 7.

         101. On March 2, 2017, Lehigh's newly hired Vice President for Equity and Community, Dr. Donald Outing, stopped by to visit with Dr. Odi.[23] 7-9-19 Tr. I at 102. While there, he encountered the plaintiff and they had a discussion in her office about her job. Id. at 102- 03. During this conversation, the plaintiff spoke to him about the issues and concerns that she had with Dr. Odi. Id. at 103. She indicated to Dr. Outing her suspicions as to how Dr. Odi managed money, and she did so in a manner that Dr. Outing could “only describe as embezzlement.” Id. She also shared with Dr. Outing a letter from Dr. Odi to a donor in which he suggested that the donor's funds move from one program to another. Id.

         102. After learning more about the relationship between Dr. Odi and the plaintiff, Dr. Outing felt that it placed the plaintiff's conversation with him in a different context as Lehigh had already been aware of the problems between them and it appeared that she was expressing to him her dissatisfaction with the outcome of the resolution of certain issues. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 116.

         103. During the two years that he has been working with Dr. Odi at Lehigh, Dr. Outing has never observed Dr. Odi yell at anyone. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 113. He has never heard Dr. Odi make a disparaging remark about anyone. Id. Even though Dr. Odi discussed the difficult working relationship he had with the plaintiff (as Dr. Outing had to have a conversation with Dr. Odi about this so he could be confident about Dr. Odi's ability to supervise staff that they had in the office), he did not disparage her to Dr. Outing. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 113-14.

         104. Dr. Odi did not discriminate against the plaintiff based upon her race or gender. Dr. Odi did not harbor any discriminatory animus against the plaintiff based on her race or gender.

         105. Dr. Odi did not create a hostile work environment on the basis of race or gender, either in the October 2012 incident (even if the court were to credit the plaintiff's version of that event) or in combination of the other interactions that he had with the plaintiff in the workplace.

         C. The Plaintiff's Experiences with Jill Forrest

         106. In January 2014, Jill Forrest (“Ms. Forrest”) transferred from Lehigh's Office of First Year Experience and began working as a Coordinator in the Academic Outreach office with the plaintiff and Dr. Odi.[24] 7-9-19 Tr. I at 18, 120, 121; see also Odi Dep. at 67. She is a Caucasian female who is younger than the plaintiff. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 36.

         107. In her Coordinator role, Ms. Forrest reported to the plaintiff. Odi Dep. at 67; 7-9-19 Tr. I at 18.

         108. The coordinator position is a non-exempt position, and Ms. Forrest desired to eventually acquire an exempt position at Lehigh. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 121-22.

         109. Although Ms. Forrest wanted to be an exempt employee at Lehigh, she did not talk to Dr. Odi about getting the plaintiff's job and did not want the plaintiff's job. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 152- 53.

         110. The plaintiff delegated numerous tasks to Ms. Forrest. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 18. These tasks included certain work for the S.T.A.R. Academy. Id. at 19.

         111. Ms. Forrest's responsibilities for the S.T.A.R. Academy included, inter alia (1) ordering t-shirts, linens, supplies, and catering services, (2) reserving the housing where the students would stay overnight, (3) arranging for transportation on and off campus, (4) coordinating with outside vendors to arrange for field trips, (5) publicizing counselor positions and sitting through interviews, (6) being present when students and participants arrived to hand out their keys and ensure they got to their rooms, and (7) shopping for groceries and submitting food orders. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 136-37.

         112. The plaintiff believed that Ms. Forrest was “good at fulfilling the responsibilities of the S.T.A.R. Academy program.” 7-9-19 Tr. I at 20.

         113. Ms. Forrest testified that the plaintiff informed her that Lehigh would not fire the plaintiff because she was African-American. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 123.

         114. Ms. Forrest observed that Dr. Odi was “super friendly, very nice.” 7-9-19 Tr. I at 124.

         115. Ms. Forrest did not see Dr. Odi treat the plaintiff any differently than he treated her. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 124. Dr. Odi did not “overly engage [with] anybody in the office.” Id. at 125.

         116. Ms. Forrest never saw Dr. Odi yell at the plaintiff. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 124. She never saw him get angry. Id. at 124, 125. She never saw him disparage anyone. Id. at 125.

         117. Ms. Forrest observed that the plaintiff and Dr. Odi had a professional, but “minimal” relationship. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 125.

         118. From 2014 until the summer of 2016, the plaintiff and Ms. Forrest got along well. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 20, 122. Ms. Forrest even attended the plaintiff's wedding in 2016. Id. at 20.

         119. Ms. Forrest spent considerable time planning and implementing the S.T.A.R. Academy program for the summer of 2016. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 36-37.

         120. During the summer of 2016, the relationship between the plaintiff and Ms. Forrest deteriorated. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 20, 137, 138. According to Ms. Forrest, near the end of the S.T.A.R. Academy program that summer, the plaintiff made passive-aggressive statements about Ms. Forrest not being an exempt employee and her thinking she can come and go as she pleases. Id. at 137-38. Ms. Forrest was very surprised when she heard these statements because she previously had worked very well with the plaintiff. Id. at 138. The plaintiff did not directly explain to Ms. Forrest what she thought Ms. Forrest was doing wrong. Id.

         121. Although the plaintiff permitted Ms. Forrest to leave the office and join the program onsite, the plaintiff criticized her for spending too much time out of the office and for being too friendly with the student workers in the program. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 37.

         122. Ms. Forrest became more concerned because on the last day of the camp, the plaintiff told her to go back to the office and check her e-mail. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 139. When Ms. Forrest did so, there was an email for her to complete her self-assessment portion of her performance review. Id. Getting notice to complete this concerned Ms. Forrest because prior to this, the plaintiff, ironically, had not conducted performance reviews of Ms. Forrest. Id. at 139- 40.

         123. Ms. Forrest was concerned because the plaintiff was now acting differently toward her and she had observed the plaintiff's “pattern of behavior” toward other individuals, namely, “once she's mad at you, there's no coming back. She cuts you off. You're dead to her.” 7-9-19 Tr. I at 140.

         124. During the summer of 2016, Ms. Forrest and the plaintiff also had a conflict about Ms. Forrest's submission for mileage reimbursement after she was using her personal vehicle for transportation for the S.T.A.R. Academy. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 42, 149, 150; see also Def.'s Ex. 17. The plaintiff declined to approve the request because Ms. Forrest had handwritten the mileage log and the plaintiff believed that she needed to include the information on a standard form that the controller's office used. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 42-43.

         125. Upon receiving word from the plaintiff that she would not approve the mileage, Ms. Forrest contacted Ms. Mann, who told her that the controller said that she did not need to complete the written form to be reimbursed. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 151.

         126. Ms. Forrest, despite telling the plaintiff that she had contacted the controller's office and was told that the handwritten log would suffice, completed the written form at the plaintiff's request; however, she submitted it a day late. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 43; see also Def.'s Ex. 19 (showing Ms. Forrest's attempts to get mileage approved after deadline). She did ultimately get reimbursed, but not until the following month. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 152.

         127. Because Ms. Forrest was concerned with maintaining her employment, she reached out to Ms. Mann and indicated that she was concerned that the plaintiff was “gunning for [her].” 7-9-19 Tr. I at 141.

         128. At the suggestion of Ms. Mann, Ms. Forrest reached out to Dr. Odi because he was the plaintiff's supervisor. 7-9-19 Tr. I at 141.

         129. In July 2016, Ms. Forrest sent Dr. Odi an e-mail and requested a meeting with him to discuss issues that she was having with the plaintiff. Odi Dep. at 67; 7-9-19 Tr. I at 141. They met at a location off ...


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