GWU contends that it would be significantly harmed if an injunction required it to keep Saunders on the faculty. Specifically, the University alleges that Saunders has fomented dissension in the School by seeking to enlist the support of the faculty in a petition drive. While it is undoubtedly true that this controversy has created divisions within the Department and the School, no evidence or argument presented by GWU suggests that these divisions would be healed simply by removing Saunders. The petition drive among the faculty of the School would not have stirred up a conflict if there were not faculty members who already felt that Saunders should stay at the School. Her termination or nonrenewal may fan the flames of controversy rather than extinguish them. Thus, it does not appear that denial or granting of a preliminary injunction will affect whatever emotions have been generated by this matter.
Moreover, even if granting the injunction did stir up more conflict, that conflict is unlikely to harm the School seriously. Saunders has been openly at odds with her Department since she filed an internal race discrimination claim in December, 1988. Yet during the past three years, the School has been able to function. Moreover, it is strange for a university to seek protection from heated debate over any matter, especially one so serious as discrimination.
In the alternative, GWU charges that Saunders has attempted to use her position to harm the Department and the program on educational administration. Specifically, it observes that Saunders has written a critical "self study" of the program which threatens its accreditation. See Self Study (Heddesheimer Declaration, Exhibit B). Saunders is not, however, the only author of the study: Professors McDonald and Willett are the second and third authors. Moreover, Saunders has not surreptitiously sent this study to accreditors. Quite to the contrary, the self study was submitted to School officials for comments. See Memorandum from Jay Shotel to Deloris Saunders, Jane McDonald, and Henry Willett, March 19, 1991 (Heddesheimer Declaration, Exhibit B). Most fundamentally, GWU has failed to indicate anything malicious in the study. The most serious criticism of the program is that it has one fewer faculty member than the accreditation standards require. See Self Study at 1. The Study also criticize the Chairman of the Department for his indifference towards the program and lack of support for it, see id at 1, 9, but it was clear from her testimony that Dr. McDonald shares that sentiment with Saunders. Thus, there is nothing in the self study report to suggest that GWU would suffer if Saunders were granted the injunctive relief that she seeks.
GWU also alleges that in submitting course schedules to the chairman, Saunders neglected to submit summer courses for McDonald and submitted courses for herself instead. See Second Smith Affidavit para. 2. The university does not, however, explain when this incident occurred or whether it was motivated by Saunders' well-founded belief that she would succeed in this litigation. Given the lack of factual foundation for GWU's other factual assertions, little weight can be attached to this evidence.
Finally, GWU argues that injunctive relief would impose a financial burden upon it because it has already hired professors to replace Saunders. It is not, however, clear whether the university would have to pay Saunders during the summer because she is not currently teaching any classes. Moreover, since there is a strong likelihood that Saunders will prevail in this matter, GWU would have to compensate Saunders for any salary lost pending resolution of this matter.
Thus, preliminary injunctive relief would impose only a minimal burden upon GWU.
The public interest in granting injunctive relief is, by contrast, quite strong. Although judicial interference in the internal affairs of universities may often affect the free exchange of ideas necessary for academic freedom and achievement, discrimination on the basis of one's skin color is the very antithesis of the liberal discourse and dialogue upon which the idea of the university is founded. Moreover, the public's overriding interest in preventing discrimination justifies any inadvertent chill judicial interference may cause. See, e.g., University of Pennsylvania v. Equal Employment Opportunity Comm'n, 493 U.S. 182, 110 S. Ct. 577, 107 L. Ed. 2d 571 (1990). That public interest is especially compelling where, as here, a plaintiff has acted as one of only a few role models for blacks in the School. Cf. Wygant v. Jackson Bd. of Education, 476 U.S. 267, 315, 90 L. Ed. 2d 260, 106 S. Ct. 1842 (1986) (Stevens, J., dissenting).
Balancing these factors, it is clear that preliminary injunctive relief is warranted. Discrimination is often difficult to prove, but in this case the evidence currently before the Court indicates a substantial likelihood that Saunders will prove numerous violations of § 1981. It is even more probable that she will prove that her request for conversion was denied in 1989 in retaliation for filing this suit. Furthermore, there is a significant threat of irreparable injury because a break in Saunders' employment with the university will harm her academic reputation in a manner that damages cannot compensate. Finally, the balance of harms weighs strongly in favor of injunctive relief: While granting an injunction would create little additional dissension in the School and impose minimal financial burdens upon GWU, denial of the injunction would thwart society's interest in rooting out discrimination and frustrate its interest in encouraging successful blacks to act as role models.
As a final line of defense, GWU argues that Saunders does not deserve equitable relief because of her own laches and her "unclean hands." Saunders, however, filed her motion for a preliminary injunction only after trial, which was originally scheduled to conclude before the expiration of her contract with GWU expired, was continued. Similarly, although GWU has criticized her resume as lacking candor, Saunders has adequately answered each particular criticism. Finally, the accusation that Saunders attempted to help a former student to cheat on her comprehensive examination is entirely lacking in credibility.
Accordingly, the accompanying order will grant Saunders' motion for a preliminary injunction and require GWU to reinstate Saunders until trial in this matter is completed.
ORDER - June 20, 1991, Filed
For the reasons stated in the accompanying memorandum and for reasons to be stated in a forthcoming memorandum on defendant's motion for summary judgment and in supplemental findings of fact, it is this 20th day of June, 1991, hereby
ORDERED: that plaintiff's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction should be, and is hereby, granted; and it is further
ORDERED: that defendant the George Washington University is hereby enjoined and directed to retain or reinstate plaintiff in or at an Associate Professor position in the School of Education and Human Development's Department of Educational Leadership under the same terms and conditions of employment and with the same responsibilities as previously; and it is further
ORDERED: that Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment should be, and is hereby, granted as it relates to plaintiff's claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 for retaliation and for failure to renew her contract; and it is further
ORDERED: that Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment should be, and is hereby, denied as it relates to all other claims.