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TURGEON v. HOWARD UNIV.

July 13, 1983

Gabrielle TURGEON, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
HOWARD UNIVERSITY, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBINSON

ROBINSON, Chief Judge: --

 This case came before the Court for a trial upon Plaintiff's claim of employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Plaintiff's claim of employment discrimination under the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C. Code §§ 1-2501, et seq., as well as her claim for damages resulting from a breach of her employment contract were simultaneously tried before a jury which rendered verdicts in Plaintiff's behalf. This Court, based on documentary and testimonial evidence adduced at the five day trial and the inferences reasonably deducible therefrom, enters the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.

 FINDINGS OF FACT

 Plaintiff's Prima Facie Case of Race Discrimination

 1. Plaintiff, Gabrielle Turgeon, is a white female whose native tongue is French. She holds a Bachelor's degree in French and Spanish from Bethune-Cookman College, a Master's degree in French and Spanish from California State University and a Ph.D degree in French Language and Literature of the 19th Century from Florida State University.

 3. In 1975, Plaintiff was invited to the Defendant Howard University for an interview with Dr. Willis who was then chairman of the Department of Romance Languages. Prior to this interview Plaintiff had teaching experience as a substitute teacher at Bethune-Cookman College, an adult education teacher in the Oakland, California public school system and an instructor at Florida State University.

 4. The faculty handbook, revised 1969, contains the employment policies of Howard University in regard to faculty contracts. The organization of the College of Liberal Arts is set forth in its by-laws.

 5. According to the "Criteria of Appointments and Promotions to the Ranks of Instructor, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor in the College of Liberal Arts, Howard University" an Assistant Professor shall hold a Ph.D or similar degree and have demonstrated proficiency in teaching according to the criteria established by the College.

 6. Because Plaintiff met the criteria for appointment to the rank of Assistant Professor in the College of Liberal Arts the interview with Dr. Willis led to the University's offer, and Dr. Turgeon's acceptance, of a two year appointment as a non-tenured Assistant Professor in the Department, from August 1975 through May 1977. Assistant professors are appointed for two year periods and are eligible for reappointment.

 7. Beginning in August of 1976, Dr. Martha Cobb, a Black female, became Chairman of the Department of Romance Languages, Dr. Willis having resigned her position in order to leave the area. During the academic year 1976-77, Dr. Turgeon continued to teach both undergraduate and graduate classes.

 8. Recommendations for appointments, reappointments, promotion and tenure begin at the departmental level with the executive committee or the tenured faculty committee (depending upon whether there are enough tenured members). Such recommendations must be approved by the President of the University before the appointment, promotion, tenure or reappointment is official. The executive committee had the responsibility in 1976-1977 of recommending contract renewals.

 9. In order to qualify for reappointment to the position of Assistant Professor, in addition to holding a Ph.D or similar degree and demonstrating proficiency in teaching according to the criteria established by the College, a candidate must demonstrate a record of scholarly research and publication, service to his or her department, and professional standing, evidenced by participation in conferences and the delivery of lectures and papers in his or her field.

 10. Dr. Turgeon was a candidate for reappointment to the rank of Assistant Professor in spring of 1976. At that time, Plaintiff's French colleagues on the executive committee felt that she was an easy grader, inadequately prepared her students for their subsequent courses, did not keep office hours and did not attend committee meetings. They also expressed doubt about her publication record.

 11. The executive committee in the spring of 1976 initially voted to renew Plaintiff's contract for one year. The committee was subsequently informed by the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts that the minimum appointment period for an Assistant Professor is two years. He informed the committee that they would have to renew Plaintiff's contract for two years or dismiss her.

 12. The executive committee subsequently decided to reappoint Plaintiff to the rank of Assistant Professor for two years. She received a letter dated June 6, 1977, from Dr. Robert Owens, III, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, notifying her that she was being reappointed for another two-year term from August of 1977 through May of 1979. No qualifications, conditions, or reservations as to her reappointment were set forth in that letter.

 13. Plaintiff directed an annual report to Dr. Cobb in August of 1977 informing the Chairman that her doctoral dissertation had been accepted for publication as a book by Edition Naaman on the condition that certain changes be made. Dr. Turgeon, who was then teaching one graduate course per semester, applied in the fall of 1977 to be accepted as part of the graduate faculty of the University and listed her credentials on her application. In February of 1978, in response to a solicitation regarding a proposed Department of Romance Language Newsletter, Dr. Turgeon submitted information concerning her professional accomplishments, student achievements, and awards. Plaintiff also sought a University grant to do research. This grant was awarded by the University in the spring of 1978.

 14. In April of 1978 Plaintiff directed another annual report to Dr. Cobb. The annual report listed the accomplishments of Plaintiff during the previous year. Those accomplishments included: a grant from the University for the purpose of research, attendance at the South Atlantic Association of Modern Languages (SAMLA) Conference in Washington, D.C., member of the critical panel at the Sherbrooke University in Quebec, Canada, publication of book reviews for XIX Century Studies, and two translations in L'Unite, a Haitian newspaper.

 15. The Howard University Faculty Handbook provides that all faculty members eligible for promotion shall have their credentials evaluated annually. The by-laws of the College of Liberal Arts provide that recommendations to the dean for appointments, reappointments, promotions and tenure within a department must be initiated by the department, and must have the approval of a majority of the tenured members of the department. The candidate's teaching proficiency is determined by a majority vote of the tenured members of the department, in adherence to the criteria established by the College for the evaluation of proficiency in teaching.

 16. In the Department of Romance Languages, the only objective assessment of teaching proficiency was contained in the results of student evaluations, the results of which were compiled and expressed in numerical ratings and rankings. The By-Laws of the College of Liberal Arts provide that the committee considering recommendations for appointment, reappointment, promotion, and tenure shall insure that student evaluations are considered in any such recommendations.

 17. Dr. Turgeon was evaluated by her students on three occasions, the most recent being in the early part of 1979. These evaluations showed her teaching was uniformly rated as excellent in that she was ranked number 4 out of 31 teachers.

 18. Candidates for reappointment are usually considered for reappointment approximately eighteen months prior to the expiration of their current term. Plaintiff, therefore, was a candidate for ...


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