34 F.3d 698 (8th Cir. 1994), 93-2909, Kobrin v. University of Minnesota

Docket Nº:93-2909.
Citation:34 F.3d 698
Party Name:Nancy J. KOBRIN, Appellant, v. UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA; The Regents of the University of Minnesota, Appellees.
Case Date:September 09, 1994
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Page 698

34 F.3d 698 (8th Cir. 1994)

Nancy J. KOBRIN, Appellant,


UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA; The Regents of the University of

Minnesota, Appellees.

No. 93-2909.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

September 9, 1994

Submitted May 9, 1994.

Page 699

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Kay Nord Hunt, Minneapolis, MN, argued (Andrea F. Rubenstein, on the brief), for appellant.

Mark Benjamin Rotenberg, Minneapolis, MN, argued, for appellee.

Before MAGILL, Circuit Judge, JOHN R. GIBSON, Senior Circuit Judge, and BOGUE, [*] Senior District Judge.

MAGILL, Circuit Judge.

Nancy Kobrin (Kobrin) appeals from the district court's order granting the University of Minnesota (University) summary judgment on Kobrin's Title VII discriminatory treatment and retaliation claims. Kobrin argues that the district court erred in concluding that she failed to produce evidence creating genuine issues of material fact on either claim. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.


Kobrin began the Ph.D. program in the University's Department of Comparative Literature (Department) in 1978. Her thesis topic centered on semiotic analysis related to medieval Iberian culture. She also received psychoanalytical training as an advanced research fellow at the Institute for Psychoanalysis in Chicago. Kobrin received her Ph.D. in 1984.

Prior to receiving her Ph.D., Kobrin was recruited to serve as Acting Program Director for the University's Center for Humanistic Studies (CHS), an interdisciplinary institute that the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) established to promote research in the humanities. After receiving her degree, she remained at CHS with a new title, Program Coordinator. To receive that position, she had to apply, interview, and be selected after a national search. Under a consent decree entered into by the University in the Rajender 1 case, the University must conduct a nationwide search to fill any academic, non-student position (Rajender search).

Kobrin served in a non-tenured, year-to-year position with CHS until 1988. While with CHS, she also taught courses in the Department. In 1988, however, CHS closed and Kobrin's position was eliminated. Around the same time, two Department faculty members resigned. On the recommendation of one of the departing professors, the Department hired Kobrin as a "lecturer." At the University, the term "lecturer" denotes a non-permanent, non-tenure track teaching position which can involve some administrative duties. Kobrin's lecturer position was funded by a CLA revolving fund of "soft money." Soft money is funds which are granted to a particular department for a particular purpose on an annual basis. Kobrin's last "Notice of Appointment" for the position stated that her job was to run from September 16, 1989 to June 15, 1990.

When the University changed Kobrin's title to lecturer, it informed her that the change triggered the need for a Rajender search. Kobrin objected to the need for a search on the ground that her new position was not substantively different from her CHS position. The deans of the CLA disagreed and concluded that a Rajender search was necessary because her new position was materially different than the old one. The University's Equal Opportunity Office granted the Department a one-year exemption from the search requirement because there was not enough time to conduct a search before the academic year began. The Equal Opportunity Office, however, made clear that Kobrin's position could not be continued without a search.

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Meanwhile, in 1988, the CLA approved funding for two new faculty positions, one senior and one junior, in the Department. The Department formed a search committee consisting of three men and four women and advertised for a candidate with "a solid background in critical theory and at least one of the following areas: literature with an emergent critical interest; continental European literature of a period after 1600; media studies." Kobrin applied for the junior position. Out of about 100 applicants, the search committee narrowed the field to fourteen or fifteen semi-finalists, including Kobrin. The committee selected Prabhakara Jha, who had a strong background in literature with an emergent critical interest, for the junior position.

As to the senior position, the person that the committee selected rejected the job offer. Because it found no other suitable candidates, the committee received permission to hire an additional junior professor out of the original pool of candidates. After interviews with faculty members and evaluation of sample lectures to students and faculty, the Department selected Peter Canning to fill the second position. In July 1989, the chair of the search committee, Professor Ronald Sousa, sent Kobrin a letter advising her that the Department had selected Canning. The letter stated that Canning "works in areas of critical theory--especially psychoanalysis--and in French."

In late August 1989, soon after receiving the letter informing her that her position would terminate in June 1990, Kobrin filed a Rajender claim 2 alleging sex discrimination against the Department in its hiring of Canning for the second junior position. 3 In June 1990, after the Department failed to renew her lecturer position, she filed a second Rajender claim. This second claim alleged that she was terminated in retaliation for filing her first claim.

Pursuant to the Rajender consent decree, a Special Master considered Kobrin's claims. The Special Master recommended that the district court grant the University's motion for summary judgment on both claims. First, he rejected Kobrin's sex discrimination claim, finding that she had failed to make out a Title VII prima facie case under McDonnell Douglas and that she had failed to show that the University's proffered reason for hiring Canning was pretextual. He also rejected her retaliation claim, concluding that there was no causal connection between her termination and her filing of...

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