been invited to make a speech at the University. A group of students created such a disturbance as made it impossible for him to address the audience. At another time the University authorities were about to conduct a hearing on charges of misconduct against a student. A group composed of some students and of some members of the faculty created such a commotion and uproar as to render it impracticable for the hearing to proceed. Threatening utterances were heard on the campus. Several fires took place. The University authorities concluded, after a careful and thorough investigation, that the student plaintiffs, as well as those plaintiffs who were members of the faculty, actively participated in creating these chaotic conditions and disorder. Accordingly, in an effort to bar a continuation and repetition of such disruptive incidents, the University in June 1967, sent a formal letter to each of the student plaintiffs, notifying him that he would not be permitted to return to the institution for the next academic year. The other plaintiffs were instructors, or junior professors, who had only temporary appointments without any permanent tenure. If such appointments were not renewed, their connection with the faculty would be automatically terminated at the expiration of the academic year. The University, again in June 1967, sent a letter to each of this group of plaintiffs formally notifying him that his appointment, which was about to expire on June 30, 1967, would not be renewed.
As the questions of law relating to the two types of plaintiffs are somewhat different, we shall deal with each category separately. We shall first consider the student plaintiffs. Their complaint is predicated on the contention that they were not accorded their alleged Constitutional right to receive notices of charges and a hearing, but were dismissed from the University by ex parte decisions. The relief that they seek is to require the University to vacate its action and to give them notices of charges and a hearing.
This contention is based on a misconception of the scope of the Bill of Rights. The procedural safeguards and the privileges accorded by the Constitution of the United States are confined solely to judicial and quasi-judicial proceedings, either in the courts or before administrative agencies. They are directed solely against Governmental action.
They do not extend to any other relation in life, such as that of parent and child, teacher and pupil, or employer and employee. These relations are of a private character. While some of them, such as that of employer and employee, may be circumscribed by contract or by statute, they are not controlled by the Constitution. For example, until the enactment of the Civil Service laws, the Federal Government had the right to discharge any of its employees at will. In fact, it may do so even now in respect to those persons who are exempt from the various limitations of the Civil Service statutes.
To take another example, arbitrary discharge of employees of private concerns may be limited by statute or by agreements between the employers and labor unions, but Constitutional restrictions are not applicable.
Counsel for the plaintiffs rely principally on the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Dixon v. Alabama State Board of Education, 294 F.2d 150, which held by a vote of 2 to 1, that a State College had no authority to expel a student without first giving him notice and some opportunity for a hearing. The Court referred to the State college as "a governmental body". Counsel for the student plaintiffs in the case at bar argued that there are sufficient contacts and a strong enough connection between Howard University and the Federal Government to render the principle of the Dixon case applicable. Decisions of Courts of Appeals of other circuits must be regarded with respect and may be persuasive, but they are not necessarily controlling. For the reasons about to be stated, it is not necessary, however, to determine whether the principle evolved by the Dixon case, should constitute the law in the District of Columbia.
Unlike the college involved in the Dixon case, Howard University is not a governmental body. It is a private corporation created by an Act of Congress. True, a large percentage of its expenses are paid by annual appropriations made by Congress. As a condition of receiving such money, the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare is given authority to visit and inspect Howard University and to control and supervise the expenditures of those funds which have been appropriated by Congress, 20 U.S.C. § 122. In addition, the President and Directors of Howard University are required to file an annual report with the Secretary. No Government officer, however, is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Institution, nor is any control over the institution vested in the Federal Government.
The status of Howard University is not open for determination by this Court, for it has already been held by the Court of Appeals for this Circuit that the University is a private corporation and is not a public institution, Maiatico Const. Co. v. United States, 65 App.D.C. 62, 79 F.2d 418. Speaking for a unanimous bench, Groner, J., in that case wrote as follows:
Howard University is a private corporation. It was incorporated under an act passed March 2, 1867 (14 Stat. 438), and its charter gives it all the rights and powers usually vested in private corporations, including the right to purchase and sell real estate, and the right to contract and to sue and to be sued.