480 F.2d 705 (6th Cir. 1973), 72-2168, Hetrick v. Martin

Docket Nº:72-2168.
Citation:480 F.2d 705
Party Name:Phyllis B. HETRICK, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Robert R. MARTIN, President of Eastern Kentucky University, and the Board of Regents of Eastern Kentucky University, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:June 15, 1973
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Page 705

480 F.2d 705 (6th Cir. 1973)

Phyllis B. HETRICK, Plaintiff-Appellant,


Robert R. MARTIN, President of Eastern Kentucky University, and the Board of Regents of Eastern Kentucky University, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 72-2168.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

June 15, 1973

Argued April 12, 1973.

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Robert Allen Sedler, Lexington, Ky., for plaintiff-appellant.

Ed W. Hancock, Atty. Gen. of Kentucky, Frankfort, Ky., George T. Ross, Richmond, Ky., John W. Palmore, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Ky., John W. Palmore, Richmond, Ky., for defendants-appellees; John W. Palmore, George T. Ross, Richmond, Ky., on brief.

Before PECK, McCREE and KENT, [*] Circuit Judges.

McCREE, Circuit Judge.

This appeal requires us to decide whether the First Amendment prevents a state university from discharging a teacher whose pedagogical style and philosophy do not conform to the pattern prescribed by the school administration. The district court, sitting without a jury, held that the Constitution did not bar officials of Eastern Kentucky University from refusing to renew plaintiff's teaching contract on the ground of impermissible deviation from the teaching standards thought appropriate by her superiors. We affirm.

Plaintiff Phyllis Hetrick was employed as a nontenured assistant English professor at Eastern Kentucky for the 1969-70 school year, and during her first semester was assigned to teach two sections of freshman composition, one sophomore literature course, and an upper level modern drama course. Her troubles with the school administration apparently began when unnamed students as well as the parents of one student complained about certain of her in-class activities. Specifically, at one point, in an attempt to illustrate the "irony" and "connotative qualities" of the English language, she told her freshman students "I am an unwed mother." At the time, she was a divorced mother of two, but she did not reveal that fact to her class. Also, she apparently on occasion discussed the war in Vietnam and the military draft with one of her freshman classes. The district court found that even though the school administration was concerned about the appropriateness of these occurrences, "it does not appear that any of the faculty members felt that Dr. Hetrick had on those particular occasions exceeded the bounds of her teaching prerogative." The student complaints during October and November 1969 allegedly centered on their inability to comprehend what she was attempting to teach them or what was expected of them, although no students were produced at trial to testify that he or she had complained about or was dissatisfied with plaintiff's teaching methods.

Other conflicts between Dr. Hetrick and her superiors developed. She did not obtain her PhD until late in her second semester, although she agreed that she would do so by the close of the first semester. She covered only 11 plays in her modern drama course, from a textbook that had been ordered by her predecessor, and the head of the English Department, Dr. Thurman, testified that plaintiff had been told that she was expected to cover between 20 and 25 plays and that he thought the work load she assigned was too light.

In February 1970, Dr. Thurman convened a "secret evaluating committee" of four other faculty members of the English Department to meet with him. The committee, according to Dr. Thurman, was to evaluate all the nontenured teachers. Dr. Thurman recommended to the committee that plaintiff not be rehired for the following year because: her

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freshman class assignments were inconclusive; she was inclined to discuss extraneous matter in class; she lacked "a sense of camaraderie" and did not seem to adjust to the other...

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