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November 20, 2001


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Urbina, District Judge.




This employment-discrimination matter comes before the court upon the defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c). The plaintiff, Cynthia Carter, brought this suit alleging discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. The plaintiff also alleges constructive discharge and numerous counts of breach of contract. For the reasons that follow, the court will grant the defendant's motion for summary judgment.


The plaintiff, Cynthia J. Carter, Ed.D., is an African-American female who is over the age of 40. See Second Am.Compl. ("Compl.") 3. George Washington University ("GWU" or "the defendant"), is a private university located in the District of Columbia. See id. At all times relevant to her complaint, Dr. Carter was an employee of GWU, where she rose swiftly through the ranks, receiving three promotions in four years. She was hired as an Assistant Director of Marketing in the Division of Continuing Engineering Education (Grade 15), and was then promoted within the Division of Continuing Education/Off Campus Programs (Grade 17). See id. ¶¶ 7-8. Over time, Dr. Carter was promoted to Director of Regional Programs and Communications in the Office of Alumni Relations (Grade 19) and to Director of Reunions and Events in the Office of Alumni Relations (Grade 20). See id ¶¶ 10-12.

The plaintiff filed her original complaint on November 24, 1999. On December 5, 2000 the court granted the plaintiff leave to file her Second Amended Complaint, but struck the plaintiffs Count 20 in response to a motion by the defendant. See Mem. Op. (Dec. 15, 2000). On June 8, 2001, the defendant moved this court for summary judgment on the remaining 19 counts.

The court now lists the relevant details of Dr. Carter's experiences with GWU, organized according to her different claims.

A. Failure to Promote

The plaintiff claims that the defendant failed to promote her on three occasions because of discrimination and/or retaliation: first, to the position of Executive Director of Alumni Relations; next, to the position of the Director of Development at Mount Vernon College; lastly, to the position of Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations. The court describes the facts surrounding each position separately.

1. Executive Director of Alumni Relations

The Executive Director of Alumni Relations position became vacant in August 1997. See Worth Decl. ¶ 5; Compl. ¶ 15. Michael Worth, Vice President for Development and Alumni Affairs, appointed a search committee composed of GWU senior officials and active alumni to recommend candidates for the position. See Pl.'s Opp'n ¶ 17; Worth Decl. ¶ 6. Dr. Carter applied for the position in September 1997. See Compl. ¶ 16. Her application, and those of five others, were selected from almost 100 applications and forwarded to the Search Committee for further evaluation. See id.; Hall Decl. ¶ 10.

The Search Committee interviewed the remaining finalists and recommended four individuals for further consideration. See Hall Decl. ¶ 12. Dr. Carter was not one of the four recommended by the committee. See id.; Compl. ¶ 17. Michael Worth then interviewed the remaining candidates, and selected Keith Betts, a white male under the age of 40, to occupy the position of Executive Director of Alumni Relations.

All of the candidates selected by the committee were Caucasian, and at least two were under the age of 40. See Compl. ¶¶ 37, 42. The plaintiff alleges that the defendant discriminated against her on the basis of her race and age. See Compl. ¶ 43. The defendant counters that it rejected the plaintiff at this stage of the application process because of her lack of interviewing skills, lack of qualifications, and lack of experience. See Hall Decl. ¶ 12. The defendant further states that it selected the successful candidate, Keith Betts, because, among other reasons, he held a doctorate degree in Higher Administration and had recent success with the University's Young Alumni Program. See Worth Decl. ¶ 8; Hall Decl. ¶ 13.

The plaintiff learned of her non-selection on November 7, 1997, and the defendant announced Keith Betts as the new Executive Director in January 1998. See Def.'s Mot. for Summ.J.Ex. 11, Carter Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") Aff. After the announcement, the plaintiff approached a member of the committee, GWU's Director of Career Services, for professional advice. See Carter Dep. 145-46. The committee member then advised the plaintiff to consider a different interviewing style as a method for improving her professional prospects. See id.

2. Director of Development at Mount Vernon College

Mount Vernon College was a small, independent women's college in the District of Columbia that became affiliated with GWU in October 1996. In the fall of 1998, as the College made plans to close the following year, GWU planned to expand its offerings at the College and continued the College's focus on women's education. See Baxter Decl. ¶ 3. In March 1998, GWU posted a vacancy for the position of Director of Development at the new campus, describing the basic functions of this position as the "identification, cultivation, and solicitation of major gifts for programs of the school." Hall Decl.Ex. 8.

At this time, Graeme Baxter, Executive Dean of GWU Mount Vernon College, interviewed the plaintiff and two others. See Baxter Decl. ¶ 6. Dean Baxter concluded that the plaintiff was not qualified because she lacked experience working with major donors and also because she lacked experience directing university fundraising. See id. The Dean also determined that the successful applicant, Sarah Morgan, was best qualified because she possessed experience at a women's college and previously had direct responsibility for development campaigns. See id. The plaintiff claims that the reasons offered by the defendant are a pretext for her nonselection, and that her race and age are the true reasons for her non-selection. See Compl. ¶¶ 49, 54.

3. Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations

In or around October 1998, GWU announced a vacancy for the position of Director of Corporate and Foundations Relations. See Hall Decl. ¶ 19. The position required the successful candidate to fundraise from corporations and foundations on a national level. See id. The plaintiff applied for the position, and her materials were forwarded to the independent search firm handling the search process, AST/Bryant. See id.; Carter Dep. at 165. Katherine White, of AST/Bryant, handled the GWU account and met with each of the three applicants. Ms. White determined that Dr. Carter was not a qualified candidate, and that she could not present Dr. Carter as an applicant for the position. See Hall Decl.Ex. 12; Carter Dep. at 1712. The position was subsequently withdrawn for lack of qualified applicants. See Hall Decl. ¶ 23; Carter Dep. at 175. The plaintiff again claims that her race was the reason for her non-selection for this position. See Compl. ¶ 59.

B. Reprisal

C. Breach of Contract

The plaintiff alleges that she had a contract with the university based on the employment manual given to her during her employment. See Compl. ¶ 73. The defendant disagrees, noting that the George Washington University Manual of Personnel Policies contains the following disclaimer: "The personnel policies of the University do not constitute or reflect terms of a contract between the University and any employee. . . ." Def.'s Mot. for Summ.J.Ex. 17. The manual also contains a statement of at-will employment: ". . . Employment at the University is not for a definite time and may be terminated at the will of the employee or the University at any time. . . ." Id.

D. Constructive Discharge

On or about February 23, 1999, the plaintiff submitted a letter of resignation from her position as the Director of Reunion and Events after being on medical leave for two months. See Def.'s Mot. for Summ.J.Ex. 8. In the letter, she expressed her appreciation for having the opportunity to work at GWU and also wished success to the Office of Alumni Relations. See id. The plaintiff now claims that she was constructively discharged because her doctor recommended that she not return to that department and the defendant refused to transfer her or grant her a leave of absence. See Pl.'s Opp'n, Carter Aff, ΒΆ 43. Five months before her resignation, Dr. Carter applied for and held open an offer of employment at Howard University, ...

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