Date of Award

2009

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

College

College of Education and International Services

Program

Leadership PhD

First Advisor

Duane M Covrig

Second Advisor

James Jeffery

Third Advisor

Jill Bodensteiner

Abstract

Purpose

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 has become the foundation of modem federal equal employment opportunity law. The application of this law to adverse tenure decisions, however, may differ from other adverse employment decisions because of judicial deference toward institutions of higher education. This present study analyzed published federal court cases decided during the period 1980-2007 involving Title VII, tenure denial, and higher education. This will contribute to understandings of the relationship between federal courts, faculty, and higher education by analyzing the extent of a statistical association between case and/or plaintiff characteristics and case outcomes; and isolating those institutional factors and practices that plaintiffs focus on in bringing lawsuits and those that the courts consider most relevant in deciding cases. Understanding this information can help institutions maximize fairness and minimize their liability exposure when designing tenure processes and making tenure decisions.

Method

This study utilized legal, quantitative, and qualitative research methods to analyze 96 federal court cases involving tenure denial and claims of race and/or sex discrimination. The chi-square test of independence and Cramer’s V were utilized to analyze the statistical association between the independent and dependent variables. Legal briefing and the qualitative historical content analysis approach were utilized to analyze the interplay between federal courts, faculty, and higher education. The content analyses process entailed: determining the coding system; perusing cases to identify concepts, trends, and themes; sorting cases in accord with emerging trends and themes; isolating trends and themes; discerning generalizations about data; and formulating constructs.

Results

The legal research method was used to identify, retrieve, analyze, and interpret the court cases involved in this study. For instance, Westlaw’s computer-assisted database was examined to identify and retrieve the relevant court cases. This examination process resulted in 204 federal court cases. Each case was then analyzed to ensure subject relevancy. Further, a legal research process known as shepardizing was applied to the cases to ensure that no cases were duplicated and that each was terminated during the period studied. These analyses resulted in 96 federal court cases identified for the purposes of this study. Quantitative analyses involved in this study showed that there was no statistically significant relationship between the independent variables (plaintiffs sex, plaintiff s race, Title VII claim, institution class) and dependent variable (case outcome). However, there was a statistically significant relationship between the independent variables (court level, decision period) and dependent variable.

Further, qualitative analyses of the cases indicated that when bringing lawsuits of race and/or sex discrimination under Title VII, higher education faculty tend to make more than one allegation of discriminatory conduct/behavior against their employer (institutions). These allegations tend to surround the themes of procedural irregularities, ambiguous policies, disparate treatment, and hostile environments. Even so, discrimination is difficult for faculty to prove as the data suggest that most faculty fail to show that their institutions’ reasons for denying them tenure is a pretext for discrimination. This finding indicates that the burden of proof under the disparate treatment theory is easier for institutions than for faculty,, as courts tend to not question the merits of the institutions’ tenure decision.

Further, the data suggests that faculty tend to lose their lawsuits on appeal. However, faculty are more successful when they claim both sex and race discrimination. Further still, male faculty who file reverse sex discrimination lawsuits appear to prevail at a similar percentage as female faculty who file sex discrimination lawsuits. Another finding was that during the 1980s the courts’ temporarily departed from their traditional practice of judicial deference. Faculty whose cases were decided during the 1980s prevailed more than faculty whose cases were decided during the 1990s and 2000s.

Conclusions

When bringing lawsuits against their institutions for adverse tenure decisions based on claims of race and/or sex discrimination faculty tend to present more than one type of allegation/evidence of discrimination. These allegations/evidence tends to center around the themes of procedural irregularities, ambiguous policies, disparate treatments, and hostile environments. However, most plaintiffs lose their lawsuits because they either fail to show they were qualified for tenure or that the institution’s proffered reason for denying them tenure was a pretext for discrimination. Even so, plaintiffs tend to be more successful when they claim both race and sex discrimination.

Court’s general responses to plaintiffs’ allegations/evidence is they will not scrutinize or question the soundness or merit of an institution’s decision absent proof that the tenure decision was based on a prohibited factor or a showing of a nexus or causal connection by plaintiff. This judicial deference demonstrates that the burden of proof under the McDonnell Douglas theory is much easier for institutions than for faculty. While case outcomes do not appear to be influenced by plaintiffs race or sex, outcomes do appear to be influenced by court level. The data indicates that plaintiff s experienced a higher success rate at the U.S. District Court level as opposed to the U.S. Appeals court level. As well, plaintiffs whose cases terminated during the 1980s prevailed at a much higher rate than those whose cases terminated during the 1990s and 2000s.

Subject Area

Sex discrimination in education--Law and legislation--United States; Race discrimination--Law and legislation--United States; Discrimination in employment--Law and legislation--United States; Discrimination in higher education--Law and legislation--United States; Affirmative action programs in education--Law and legislation--United States; College teachers--Tenure

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

DOI

https://dx.doi.org/10.32597/dissertations/1707

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