236 F.3d 888 (7th Cir. 2001), 00-1019, Wozniak v Conry et al

Docket Nº:00-1019
Citation:236 F.3d 888
Party Name:Louis Wozniak, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Thomas F. Conry, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:January 10, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 888

236 F.3d 888 (7th Cir. 2001)

Louis Wozniak, Plaintiff-Appellant,


Thomas F. Conry, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 00-1019

In the United States Court of Appeals, For the Seventh Circuit

January 10, 2001

Argued October 26, 2000

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois.

No. 97-2182--Michael P. McCuskey, Judge.

Page 889

Before Easterbrook, Kanne, and Evans, Circuit Judges.

Easterbrook, Circuit Judge.

After 28 years of teaching at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, Louis Wozniak became a rebel. Members of the engineering faculty teach undergraduate classes, which are divided into sections. To ensure consistency in grading across sections, the University requires professors to grade on a prescribed curve and to submit their grading materials. At the end of the fall semester in 1994 Wozniak turned in grades for his two undergraduate sections but refused to submit the required materials for review. Despite demands from increasingly high rungs of the University's hierarchy, Wozniak persisted in his position. In June 1995 Wozniak asked the Chancellor of the University to intervene; after the Chancellor declined to do so, the Dean of the College of Engineering gave Wozniak one last chance to comply or to explain himself. Wozniak let the deadline pass in silence, but the Dean did not. Wozniak asserts that the Dean barred him from teaching any further classes, canceled his research funds, and reassigned him to manage the engineering faculty's Web site. His title (Associate Professor of General Engineering) and his salary were unaffected, however, and he remains on the faculty. Wozniak contends in this suit under 42 U.S.C. sec.1983 that, by stripping him of professorial responsibilities and privileges, the University violated both the first amendment and the due process clause of the Constitution.

The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants. We therefore give Wozniak the benefit of all reasonable inferences from the evidentiary record, which is rife with disputes. This means, in particular, that we accept Wozniak's contention that he has been foreclosed from any teaching (though the University says otherwise), barred from all research (again the University says otherwise), and thus effectively shuttled from the faculty to the administrative staff. Moreover, we accept Wozniak's contention that such a change of duties is out of the ordinary, indeed unheard of, for a tenured member of the faculty. It follows that Wozniak has created a material dispute about the question whether the University has deprived him of his professional stature, a form of property interest--for an employer that strips an employee of the

Page 890

ordinary incidents of the job, in a way that could lead a reasonable, self-respecting person to resign, has constructively discharged that person even if the employee's title and salary are unaffected. Thus a police department that strips a ranking officer of duties and assigns him to shuffle papers in a broom closet has deprived that officer of property. See Parrett v. Connersville, 737 F.2d 690 (7th Cir. 1984). Likewise a school board that reassigns a school's principal to a trifling administrative post. Head v. Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees, 225 F.3d 794, 803-04 (7th Cir. 2000). If Wozniak is describing events correctly, he lost more than his dignity and the opportunity to influence students. He lost all prospects of promotion to full professor (though these could not have been bright, since he was still an associate professor 28 years into his teaching career) and, because he lost research support, future scholarly publications, recognition within the profession, and the chance...

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