868 F.2d 821 (6th Cir. 1989), 87-6100, Parate v. Isibor

Docket Nº:87-6100.
Citation:868 F.2d 821
Party Name:Natthu S. PARATE, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Edward I. ISIBOR, individually and in his official capacity as Dean of the School of Engineering & Technology at Tennessee State University; Michael Samuchin, individually and in his official capacity as Head of the Civil Engineering Department of the School of Engineering and Technology at Tennessee State
Case Date:February 17, 1989
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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868 F.2d 821 (6th Cir. 1989)

Natthu S. PARATE, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Edward I. ISIBOR, individually and in his official capacity

as Dean of the School of Engineering & Technology at

Tennessee State University; Michael Samuchin, individually

and in his official capacity as Head of the Civil

Engineering Department of the School of Engineering and

Technology at Tennessee State University; President of

Tennessee State University, in his official capacity; and

Chancellor of the Board of Regents of the State University

and Community College System of Tennessee, in his official

capacity, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 87-6100.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

February 17, 1989

        Argued Oct. 11, 1988.

        Rehearing Denied March 16, 1989.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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        Linda A. Ross, Gilbert and Milom, and Aleta Arthur (argued), Nashville, Tenn., for plaintiff-appellant.

        W.J. Michael Cody, Atty. Gen. of Tenn., Nashville, Tenn., Christine Modisher (argued), Ronald Routson, Larry Woods (argued), Woods & Woods, Nashville, Tenn., for defendants-appellees.

        Ann H. Franke (argued), Washington, D.C., for amicus curiae, American Ass'n of University Professors.

        Before KEITH, JONES and MILBURN, Circuit Judges.

        KEITH, Circuit Judge.

        Plaintiff Natthu S. Parate ("Parate"), whose contract to teach at Tennessee State University ("TSU") was not renewed, brought this civil rights action against defendants, various officials of TSU and the State University and Community College System of Tennessee. Parate complained that the defendants violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The district court dismissed Parate's claims under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 with prejudice; dismissed his pendent state law claims without prejudice; and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. For the following reasons, we AFFIRM in part and REVERSE in part.

       I.

        Parate, a native of India, was appointed associate professor in the TSU Civil Engineering Department for the 1982-83 academic year, effective August 23, 1982. Parate received his Bachelor of Engineering degree from a university in India; his Master's degree from a university in England; and his Doctorate degree from a university in France. He has also done post-doctoral work in both France and Canada. Parate was appointed to a tenure-track position which was subject to renewal on an annual basis. At all relevant times, Edward I. Isibor, a Nigerian, served as Dean of the School of Engineering and Technology, and Michael Samuchin served as Head of the Department of Civil Engineering.

        In his first semester at TSU, Parate taught the course "Groundwater and Seepage" ("GWS"). At the beginning of the semester, Parate informed the class of his grading criteria. Students who earned 90 to 100 percent of the total coursework points would receive an "A" grade, and students who earned 80 to 90 percent would receive a "B" grade. The percentages were derived from points assigned to homework, class discussion, and examinations. Parate also stated that when awarding grades, he would consider individual students' extenuating circumstances.

        After Parate distributed final grades in the "GWS" course, two students in the class, Students "X" and "Y," 1 approached Parate and requested grade changes. Students "X" and "Y" had received final grades of 86.1 and 86.4, respectively. Student "X" contended that his grade should be changed because he had been involved in a serious legal matter while enrolled in the course. To support his argument, Student

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"X" showed Parate a court summons for a date in January, the month after the final exam. Parate reviewed Student "X's" performance and noted that he had fared better on the midterm examination than he had on the final examination. On the basis of Student "X's" overall course work and his extenuating personal circumstances, Parate agreed to change his grade to an "A." Parate discussed the matter with Samuchin, who concurred in the grade change.

        Student "Y" also requested a grade change. However, because Student "Y" had cheated on the final examination and presented false medical excuses, Parate declined to change his grade. Parate explained that he personally observed Student "Y" cheating on the final examination; confronted him; and refused to give him credit for plagiarized answers. In addition, Parate recalled that Student "Y" had previously offered medical excuses lacking in credibility. On one occasion, Student "Y's" note said that he was indisposed by a headache, but on a day when no class was scheduled. Another note submitted by Student "Y" had been altered with "white-out" and was written over to state the student "was not prepared for exam." After hearing Parate's explanation, Samuchin concurred in his decision not to change Student "Y's" grade. When advised by Parate that his grade would not be changed, Student "Y," also a Nigerian, said that he would get his grade changed "through the Dean."

        On February 14, 1983, Student "Y" contacted Isibor and appealed for a grade change in the "GWS" course. On February 26, 1983, Parate met with Mohan Malkani, the Associate Dean of the School of Engineering and Technology. After hearing Parate's explanation, Malkani agreed that there was no valid reason to change Student "Y's" grade to an "A." Isibor insisted that Parate meet with him, Malkani and Samuchin on March 3, 1983. At the meeting, Isibor instructed Parate to change Student "Y's" grade to an "A." Isibor also insisted that Parate sign a memorandum changing his official grading distribution for the "GWS" course so that a grade of 86 would be an "A" instead of a "B." When Parate refused, Isibor began to insult and berate him. Isibor said that Parate did not know how to teach, asked him where he got his degree, and stated that it would be very difficult to renew Parate's contract at TSU.

        On the following day, Samuchin again met with Parate. Samuchin had prepared memoranda for Parate's signature that referred to the purported change in the grading criteria for the "GWS" course. The memoranda also requested grade changes for both Students "X" and "Y." Although Parate signed the memoranda, he added a notation to each copy: "as per instructions from Dean and Department Head at meeting." Later the same day, Samuchin returned with retyped memoranda and explained to Parate that there was to be no notation referring to Isibor's instructions. Samuchin then warned Parate that if he failed to sign the retyped memoranda, then Isibor would "mess up" his evaluation. Parate signed the second set of memoranda, but to signify his protest, used a signature different from his normal one. Samuchin then returned with a third set of retyped memoranda, which Parate ultimately signed due to his fear of future reprisals from Isibor.

        During both the 1983-84 and the 1984-85 academic years, Samuchin and Isibor engaged in a variety of retaliatory acts against Parate due to the "GWS" course incident. Samuchin and Isibor challenged Parate's grading criteria in other courses; sent him a letter critical of his teaching methods; and penalized him with low performance evaluations. By refusing Parate's requests for authorized professional travel and appropriate reimbursements, Samuchin and Isibor impeded Parate's research efforts and his presentation of papers at professional conferences. Ultimately, Samuchin and Isibor recommended the non-renewal of Parate's teaching contract.

        On March 19, 1985, the President of TSU sent Parate a letter indicating that his tenure track appointment would not be renewed beyond the 1985-86 academic year.

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The letter stated that Parate could request from Samuchin a statement of reasons for non-renewal. Samuchin, however, never responded to Parate's request for such a statement. To resolve his differences with Isibor, Parate arranged a meeting on September 16, 1985. During this meeting, Isibor said that if Parate's performance improved, consideration would be given to the renewal of his teaching contract. Isibor concluded by telling Parate "you must obey and never disobey your Dean."

        In late September 1985, one of Parate's classes was interrupted by a graduate student. This student demanded that Parate change his final grade in a course which had ended the previous year. On October 2, 1985, two Nigerian students complained about the grades they had received on a "Statics" course examination just returned by Parate. These students demanded "As" on the exam; questioned Parate's teaching competence in front of his other students; and threatened to go to Isibor. These students also stated that they would insure that Parate would not teach the "Statics" course in following semesters.

        Two days later, on October 4, 1985, Parate held his "Statics" class as scheduled. Isibor and Samuchin, however, had preceded him into the classroom unannounced. After Parate began to call the roll, he was immediately interrupted. Isibor shouted from the back of the room: "Stop the roll call, don't waste time; circulate the paper for a roll call." Adhering to Isibor's directive, Parate began to teach his class, but was again interrupted by Isibor's shouts. Isibor next ordered Parate to complete one of the problems from the textbook. After Parate began to work out the problem on the blackboard and explain it to the students, Isibor again interrupted him. Isibor demanded that Parate complete the problem on the blackboard without addressing the students; that the students complete the problem on paper; and that Samuchin copy Parate's work from the board. Isibor soon approached the blackboard himself and began to work on the same problem that Parate and the students were completing....

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