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Reymore v. Marian University

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 29, 2017




         This cause is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 45], filed on January 13, 2017. Plaintiff Marie Reymore has brought this action against her former employer, Marian University, alleging that it discriminated against her because of her gender and retaliated against her for filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), all in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). For the reasons detailed in this entry, we GRANT Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         Factual Background

         I. Reymore's Employment at Marian University

         In 2000, Marian University (“Marian”) hired Dr. Marie Reymore (“Reymore”), who had earned her Master's degree in economics in 1994 and her Ph.D. in economics in 1999, to serve as a full-time Assistant Professor of Economics in its Business Department (the predecessor to its Business School). In that capacity, she taught four classes each semester, developed the economics course curriculum, and supervised up to 120 students each year.

         Following a 2007 restructuring of the Marian Business Department to make it a part of the Business School, Reymore served as the Business School's interim dean until 2010. Reymore was approved for tenure in 2008 and became an Associate Professor of Economics.[1] In 2009, Reymore began teaching Marian Adult Program (“MAP”) courses, an accelerated degree completion program geared toward working professionals. MAP courses were typically taught by adjunct instructors on a single-course basis. As a part of that program, Reymore taught Statistical Methods, Introductory Economics, and Nursing Economics and contracted with Marian to continue teaching such courses every semester. This arrangement continued until Marian decided to discontinue it for the reason(s) discussed below.

         In 2010, Marian hired Dr. Russell Kershaw to serve as Dean of the School of Business. During her term as interim dean, Marian's Vice President and Provost, Dr. Thomas Enneking, had authorized Reymore to hire only a part-time administrative assistant, even though she had requested full-time support. Reymore became upset when, in 2011, Dean Kershaw, a male, was authorized to hire a full-time assistant. Docket No. 23 (Am. Compl.) at 2. This decision was allegedly made for budgetary reasons and Provost Enneking's approval of Kershaw's request to hire a full-time assistant was conditioned on the assistant's providing support to another dean in addition to Kershaw. Docket No. 47-6 (Enneking Aff.) at para. 17. Reymore acknowledges that Marian's receipt of a significant financial gift in 2010 from a donor to the University enabled the funding of a full-time assistant. Docket No. 47-1 (Reymore Dep.) at 124:9-25.

         While serving as Dean of Marian's Business School Dean in 2010, Kershaw decided to move the University's economics program from the Business School to the School of Liberal Arts. Reymore agreed to teach economics courses within the School of Liberal Arts and was thus transferred to that department. Her new supervisor became the Liberal Arts School's Dean, James Norton. As of Fall 2012, Reymore was the only fulltime faculty member teaching economics in the Liberal Arts School.

         Following the transfer of the Economics Department, Professor James Polito, who also taught economics, remained assigned to the Business School under Dean Kershaw's Supervision.[2] Polito became a tenured professor of economics in 2012 and his course load included economics, undergraduate business, and finance classes.

         Reymore served as a full-time faculty member until the end of the Spring 2015 semester, when Marian decided not to renew her contract. We address the details leading up to that decision below.

         II. The Termination of Reymore's Full-Time Faculty Contract

         Prior to 2014, Marian had compiled data concerning low student enrollments in certain areas of study, including economics, art history, photography, and French, and developed a proposal to eliminate these subjects from its major and/or minor tracks course offerings. With regard to the economics courses, for example, the statistics showed that, between 2007 and 2014, only three or fewer students were enrolled with minors in that subject area. Enneking decided sometime in 2014 to drop the economics program from the curriculum. Enneking Aff. at para. 3. Marian's administration agreed to eliminate the economics program (both the major and minor), as well as majors in art history, photography, and French. Dropping the minors in those subjects was not recommended because student enrollments were sufficient to warrant their continuation and because the faculty members assigned to teach those subjects also taught other courses and programs. Docket No. 47-5 (Enneking Dep.) at 96:23-97:10; Docket No. 47-4 (William Harting Aff.) at para. 6. The teaching contracts covering courses in economics did not require the faculty to support other programs. Harting Aff. at para. 7.

         Thereafter, Marian's Academic Policies Committee (“APC”) began consideration of the elimination of the Economics program as well as certain other majors in other subjects. According to Marian's Faculty Handbook, the APC is charged with the responsibility for changes to academic programs for review by the faculty. (Reymore herself had served as a member of the APC). The APC ultimately voted in favor of the elimination of the major due to low enrollment as well as the French major. Reymore Dep. at 201:12-204:6. Marian's Board of Trustees approved the proposal, and the decision became effective as of May 8, 2015.

         Reymore was notified in February 2015 that her full-time faculty contract would be terminated based on the decision by the Board of Trustees to eliminate the economics major and minors, cancelling the need for a full-time faculty member to teach that subject. On June 29, 2015, Enneking personally informed Reymore that he had decided not to renew her full-time faculty contract given the continued low enrollments in Marian's Economics courses and low graduation rates. Marian contends in this litigation that Enneking “could have pursued the termination of Reymore's full-time faculty contract for cause based on her performance” (discussed below) “but he decided to instead pursue deletion of the Economics program due to insufficient enrollment, which had the same result, did not require Marian to engage in the difficult and time-consuming process of terminating a tenured faculty member for cause, and would relieve Reymore from having to tell prospective employers that she had been terminated for poor performance.” Def.'s Br. at 10; Reymore Dep. 247:1-10. Following Enneking's conference with Reymore in which he informed her that her contract was being terminated, she inquired whether she could continue to teach MAP courses. Enneking responded that she could continue, so long as her teaching services were needed and she also performed well. Reymore Dep. at 247:1-10.

         III. Reymore's Performance Evaluations

         A. Expectations of Faculty

         Marian's Faculty Handbook outlines performance expectations for faculty members, including teaching effectiveness, availability to students, and compliance with administrative deadlines. Reymore admits that these standards applied to her, both in her capacity as a full-time faculty member and as a MAP course instructor.

         B. Reymore's Full-time Economics Professor Evaluations

         Reymore's performance reviews as a full-time faculty member during her time at Marian have generated contradictory assessments between the parties to this litigation. Reymore asserts that in 2001 she received a satisfactory performance evaluation and that in 2008 and 2009, Enneking wrote positive reference letters for her, which, she contends, he would not have done had her performance been poor. Enneking Dept. at 42. Regarding student evaluations between the fall semester of 2014 and the spring semester of 2015, Reymore describes them as referencing valuable aspects of her courses and reflecting a high level of agreement as to the quality of her teaching performance. Reymore Aff. at para. 21-35. Reymore also contends that she never received any negative feedback regarding her performance as a teacher from anyone within the Marian administration prior to her termination. Reymore Aff. at para. 10.

         Marian holds a different opinion regarding the quality of Reymore's performance, noting that Enneking “began to notice a decline in [Reymore's] performance” following her successful tenure bid in 2008. Enneking Dep. at 43:19-23; 65:12-66:6. Sometime in May 2008, Marian's then-Dean of Academic Affairs, William Harting, met with students who complained that Reymore had missed approximately ten classes during the semester, was habitually late for class, and in fact was an hour late the day of the final examination. Harting Aff. at para. 4. Reymore reportedly failed to return the final tests and rough drafts of papers to the students, even though she had imposed accelerated deadlines to complete their final papers. Id. In general, the students were critical of Reymore's teaching style and performance. Id. Apart from sharing these comments with Reymore, Marian does not appear to have done any follow up aimed at improving her performance.

         Not until 2011 did Marian officially evaluate Reymore's performance, when Kershaw concluded that Reymore's teaching methods were not satisfactory. In response to this evaluation, Reymore allegedly committed to make improvements. Reymore Dep. 235:16-236:2. In 2013, two years later, Dean Norton informed Enneking that he had received a complaint from an undergraduate student about her performance in an online course. Enneking Aff. at para. 9. The student reported that Reymore was disorganized and tardy in posting assignments; she routinely changed due dates for student assignments and failed to grade past assignments. Id. She also failed to respond to students' questions. Id. Norton conveyed these concerns to Reymore, but despite some minor improvements, her poor communication practices and disorganization continued. Id. Prompted by these complaints, Enneking and Norton met with Reymore in 2013 to discuss her unsatisfactory teaching performance. Reymore Dep. at 232:24-234:14. Prior to and in preparation for the meeting, Enneking undertook a review of past student evaluations relating to Reymore's courses, noting in particular the following:

• Spring 2008 courses, which indicated that Reymore was absent multiple times and habitually tardy, that she delayed returning homework and tests and was difficult to meet with outside of class;
• Fall 2010, which showed that Dr. Reymore cancelled multiple classes, failed to timely return homework and tests and exhibited a lack of preparation, focus, and interest in teaching; and
• Spring 2010, which recounted her frequent absences, tardiness, untimely returning of class work, and described her as disorganized, unresponsive, and uncaring.
• Fall 2011, which reflected students' dissatisfaction with Reymore's absences from class and office hours, tardiness, untimely returning of class work, and her unresponsiveness; and
• Spring 2012 and 2013, which students reported a continuation of the same types of complaints.

         Enneking Aff. at para 12. During the 2013 meeting, Enneking reviewed this information with Reymore. In addition, two Marian administrators discussed with Reymore her tardiness in complying with administrative deadlines, i.e., in submitting book orders, class rosters, and grades. Following this meeting, Enneking monitored Reymore's performance via student evaluations, including their reviews of courses Reymore taught as part of the MAP Program.

         C. Reymore's MAP ...

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