Lieberman v. Gant

Decision Date02 August 1979
Docket NumberCiv. No. 15736.
Citation474 F. Supp. 848
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Connecticut
PartiesMarcia R. LIEBERMAN, Plaintiff, v. Edward V. GANT, Individually and as Acting President and Provost of the University of Connecticut, William C. Orr, Individually and as Associate Provost of the University of Connecticut, Kenneth G. Wilson, Individually and as Vice-President (Academic Programs) of the University of Connecticut, Robert W. Lougee, Individually and as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences of the University of Connecticut, William T. Moynihan, Individually and as Head of the Department of English of the University of Connecticut, Charles A. Owen, Jr., Individually and as Chairman, Elected Tenure and Promotion Committee, Department of English, of the University of Connecticut, and Gordon W. Tasker, Merlin D. Bishop, Carl W. Nielsen, Joseph R. McCormick, Betty J. Jones, William DeHomer Waller, John M. Lupton, Louise Kronholm, Norma Jorgensen, Robert F. Taylor, Walter B. Kozloski, and Charles Stroh, Individually and as members of the Board of Trustees of the University of Connecticut, Defendants.




Louis M. Winer, Peter A. Kelly, J. Michael Sulzbach, Winer, Kelly & Sulzbach, New Haven, Conn., for plaintiff.

Thomas F. Parker, Gross, Hyde & Williams, Hartford, Conn., for Edward V. Gant, William C. Orr, Kenneth G. Wilson and Robert W. Lougee, Individually.

Edward J. Daly, Jr., Silvester & Daly, Hartford, Conn., for William T. Moynihan and Charles A. Owen, Jr.

John R. Fitzgerald, Howard, Kohn, Sprague & Fitzgerald, Hartford, Conn., for Carl W. Nielsen.

Bourke G. Spellacy, Thomas J. Shortell, Charles F. Corcoran, III, James T. Graham, Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, Hartford, Conn., for Joseph R. McCormick.

Robert C. Danaher, R. Cornelius Danaher, Jr., Danaher, Lewis & Tamoney, Hartford, Conn., for John M. Lupton.

James J. Kennelly, Hartford, Conn., for Louise Kronholm.

Israel Rosenzweig, Rosenzweig & Fagan, New Britain, Conn., for Norma Jorgensen.

F. Timothy McNamara, Hartford, Conn., for Robert F. Taylor.

John F. Scully, Patrick J. Flaherty, Cooney, Scully & Dowling, Hartford, Conn., for Walter B. Kozloski & Charles Stroh, Individually.

John F. McKenna, Asst. Atty. Gen., Hartford, Conn., John G. Hill, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen., Storrs, Conn., Carl R. Ajello, Atty. Gen., Hartford, Conn., for all defendants as officials or employees of the State of Connecticut and for defendants Gordon W. Tasker, Merlin D. Bishop, Betty J. Jones and William DeHomer Waller, Individually.

Bernard F. McGovern, Jr., Sidney D. Giber, David J. Della-Bitta, Asst. Attys. Gen., Carl R. Ajello, Atty. Gen., Hartford, Conn., for all defendants as officials or employees of the State of Connecticut and for defendants, Gordon W. Tasker, Merlin D. Bishop, Betty J. Jones and William DeHomer Waller, Individually.


CLARIE, Chief Judge.

The plaintiff Marcia R. Lieberman was denied tenure at the University of Connecticut after teaching in the University's English department in a nontenured status for a probationary period of six years. She instituted this action against the University's Board of Trustees, several of its officers and members of its English department, alleging that the decision not to promote her to a tenured position was made in retaliation for her political activities on behalf of women, was motivated by sexual bias, and was carried out in contravention of the procedures prescribed by the University for evaluating faculty members.

The case was tried to the Court without a jury. Trial commenced on April 20, 1976 and consumed 52 days of court time, finally concluding on May 26, 1978. The case was suspended several times because of the Court's criminal business, but the longest delay was due to the protracted illness of the plaintiff's attorney.1

After reviewing all of the evidence, including a trial transcript of nearly 10,000 pages and almost 400 exhibits, the Court finds that the plaintiff has failed to meet her burden of proof, as to any of the five counts of her complaint. The evidence discloses that the decision to refuse tenure to the plaintiff was made in good faith and in conformance with the appropriate procedures, and was not infected with sexual or political bias. Accordingly, judgment shall enter for all defendants.

Statement of Facts

The plaintiff Marcia Lieberman was first hired by William T. Moynihan, head of the English department, as a part time lecturer to teach one course in the fall of 1967. A major consideration in the hiring of Marcia Lieberman was the University's interest in her husband, Philip Lieberman, a recognized linquist of considerable professional stature. The University was forming a new department of Linguistics at the time and those who were trying to attract Philip Lieberman felt that finding a job for Mrs. Lieberman would be helpful in enticing Philip to come to the University. (Tr. 5506-07, 5241). Mrs. Lieberman was not hired in the normal manner; in fact, Professor Charles A. Owen, Jr., who was chairman of the English department's joint committee at the time, testified that the job as lecturer was created for her. (Tr. 6861).

In the normal case a candidate would forward his or her dossier to the appointments committee of the English department. The committee would evaluate the dossiers and set up interviews with the top 40 prospects. The committee would then make its hiring recommendations based upon its assessment of the candidates' merit. (Tr. 7068). Mrs. Lieberman bypassed this procedure, and dealt directly with the head of the department, who was encouraged to find a job for her by Kenneth Wilson, who at that time was Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. (Tr. 6945, 2392-94.) Moynihan testified that if Mrs. Lieberman's application had proceeded in the normal course, she probably would not have survived the initial screening process, and that if she had she would have ranked near the bottom of the 40 candidates who were selected for an interview. (Tr. 6949-50, 7069-70).

During Mrs. Lieberman's first semester at the University a vacancy in a full time position in the English department occurred when Peggy Knapp resigned her position effective as of the end of the semester. (Tr. 1811). Moynihan then appointed Mrs. Lieberman to the rank of assistant professor to fill that vacancy. (DX-DDD).2 Her letter of appointment made clear that the position was temporary and that her appointment would extend only until July 31, 1968. (PX-91, 92). Moynihan again appointed Marcia Lieberman to a temporary one year position for the following academic year, said appointment to expire on September 15, 1969. (PX-94).

During the fall of 1968, i. e., her second temporary year at the University, the plaintiff sought a tenure track appointment from the English department's executive committee.3 That group advised her to submit her dossier to the appointments committee, so that her application could be reviewed along with other candidates for permanent positions. (DX-CCC). Upon reviewing Mrs. Lieberman's credentials the appointments committee informed the department head, Moynihan, that her credentials were not of sufficient quality to earn her an interview. (Tr. 7032). Thereafter the executive committee considered Mrs. Lieberman's request for a permanent appointment. Three members of the executive committee who were familiar with the subject matter of her dissertation read it, and all three found it unsatisfactory. (Tr. 6267). Professor Clark called it "terrible," and Professor Sonstroem stated that if he had been her dissertation advisor, he would not have accepted it. (Tr. 7034, 1403). The executive committee unanimously recommended that she not be given a tenure track appointment. (Tr. 6442).

Moynihan took a leave of absence from the University in the second semester of 1968-1969 and Charles Owen served as acting head of the English department. Prior to leaving Moynihan informed Owen of Mrs. Lieberman's interest in another temporary position for the following year, if she could not get a tenure track appointment, and asked him to consider her if a vacancy occurred. (Tr. 7037). Later Owen did offer Mrs. Lieberman a temporary appointment; the letter of appointment specified a one year period, ending September 15, 1970. (PX-95).

At Moynihan's request the English department's Promotion and Tenure committee considered the plaintiff's request for a tenure track appointment in the fall of 1969. (Tr. 7053). The promotion and tenure committee, regarding her credentials as inferior to other members of the permanent junior faculty, voted against offering her a permanent position. (DX-TT p. 3). The executive committee, in light of this report and in view of the likelihood of attracting more qualified candidates, voted in December not to offer her a tenure track appointment. (DX-TT p. 3). In January of 1970 the executive committee again considered Mrs. Lieberman for a tenure track position and decided to pursue all candidates whose records were clearly superior to hers. (DX-TT p. 3.). A list of potential candidates was drawn up and Mrs. Lieberman was rated 13 out of 15. Nevertheless, when an English professor resigned his position, Moynihan recommended that Mrs. Lieberman be appointed to the tenure track position, after the 12 people who ranked above her on the hiring list were approached and refused the position. (Tr. 1411-12, 7071). Moynihan made this recommendation notwithstanding the objections of the executive committee, because he wanted Marcia Lieberman to have a chance to prove herself. (Tr. 7073). Her letter of appointment specifies that her appointment was to run nine months, beginning September 10, 1970. (PX-98).

Article X-K-3-d of the University's Laws and By-Laws provides for a probationary period of 7 years before a professor must be considered for tenure. (PX-1 p. 29)....

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