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Boylan v. Ball State University

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

July 31, 2019




         Daniel Boylan was an instructor in the Finance Department at Ball State University. With the goal of obtaining future employment in a tenure-track position, Mr. Boylan pursued and obtained a Ph.D. But after he received his Ph.D., Ball State did not offer him a tenure-track position. Dr. Boylan then left his instructor position at Ball State for a job at another college and brought this lawsuit alleging that Ball State discriminated against him on the basis of age and gender, retaliated against him, and breached an oral contract. Ball State seeks summary judgment on all claims. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants summary judgment to Ball State on the federal law claims and dismisses the remaining state law claim. Dkt. [54].

         I. Facts and Background

          Because Ball State has moved for summary judgment under Rule 56(a), the Court views and recites the evidence “in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.” Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted).

         A. Ball State's Business School, the Miller College of Business (“MCOB”)

         Ball State's MCOB is accredited by the Association to Advance College Schools of Business (“AACSB”). Dkt. 55 at 3. When the events relevant to this lawsuit occurred, Dr. Jennifer Bott served as Dean of the MCOB while Dr. Sushil Sharma served as the Associate Dean. Id. The MCOB consists of six departments: Accounting; Economics; Finance and Insurance; Information Systems and Operations; Management; and Marketing. Id. Dr. Manoj Athavale headed the Finance and Insurance Department. Dkt. 55-2 at 2 (Athavale Dep. 11:22-12:11).

         Instructor positions are year-to-year contracts, dkt. 55-5 at 2 (Bott Decl. ¶ 6), while tenure-track positions last for six years with the possibility of tenure and promotions, dkt. 55-1 at 3 (Sharma Dep. 15:18-17:22). Tenure-track positions in the MCOB can only be filled when there is a vacancy in the tenured faculty. Dkt. 55-5 at 2 (Bott Decl. ¶ 8). Additionally, all tenure-track hires require an external search, a review of the hiring process by compliance and other offices, and a review of the proposed job offer by the Dean, Provost, President, and Board of Trustees. Id. at 3-4 (¶¶ 12-14).

         B. Dr. Boylan's Position as an Instructor and Desire for a Tenure-Track Position

         Dr. Boylan worked as an instructor in the Finance Department from 2012-2016. Seedkt. 55-3. His main responsibility was teaching finance courses. Dkt. 55-2 at 2 (Athavale Dep. 13:4-6). In late 2012 or early 2013, Dr. Boylan asked department faculty about pursuing his Ph.D. Dkt. 55-2 at 3 (Athavale Dep. 14:4-5). Over 2012 and 2013, Dr. Athavale and Dr. Sharma told Dr. Boylan that if he received his Ph.D. in technology from Purdue University, with a cognate in accounting, he would be “promoted into a tenure-track position” in Ball State's MCOB. Dkt. 55-4 at 9-10 (Boylan Dep. 36:10- 37:10). Dr. Samuel, who was dean at the time, and Dr. Bott repeated that promise over the course of 2012-2013. Id. Dr. Sharma also wrote Dr. Boylan a letter of recommendation for Purdue's program. Id. at 10 (37:9-12).

         In 2013, Dr. Boylan enrolled in Purdue's graduate program and began pursuing his Ph.D. in technology. Dkt. 55-1 at 4 (Sharma Dep. 25:13-15). Dr. Boylan received his Ph.D. in 2016. Dkt. 55-4 at 10 (Boylan Dep. 40:9-24).

         C. Dr. Boylan is Not Selected for A Tenure-Track Position

         In 2015, Dr. Boylan applied for a tenure-track position in Ball State's Accounting Department, effective for the 2016-2017 academic year. Dkt. 55-7 at 8. The accounting position required several minimum qualifications, including completion of “all but dissertation” (“A.B.D.”) towards a doctorate in accounting at an AACSB-accredited school, evidence of scholarly research or the potential for scholarly research in accounting, and teaching experience or evidence of potential to teach accounting. Id. at 5. Preferred qualifications included a Ph.D. in accounting from an AACSB-accredited school, full-time teaching experience at the university level with an emphasis on accounting, and certified public accountant (“CPA”) or other accounting certification. Id.

         Dr. Mark Myring, chair of Ball State's Accounting Department, reviewed Dr. Boylan's materials and determined that his application did not meet the minimum qualifications because his Ph.D. was not in accounting and Purdue was not AACSB-accredited. Id. at 2-3 (¶¶ 7, 8, 10, 12). Dr. Myring further concluded that Dr. Boylan's graduate school transcript only included one accounting-related course and his dissertation was unrelated to accounting. Id. at 3 (¶ 11).

         Dr. Tiffany Westfall was offered and accepted the tenure-track accounting position. Id. (¶ 13). Dr. Westfall's doctorate was from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which was AACSB-accredited, and she had a graduate degree with a specification in accounting. Id. (¶ 14). Dr. Westfall was also a CPA. Id.

         On December 3, 2015, Dr. Bott, Dr. Sharma, and Dr. Athavale met with Dr. Boylan and told him that he was unqualified for any tenure-track position at Ball State's MCOB. Dkt. 55-4 at 7, 9 (Boylan Dep. 25:4-26:4, 37:9-14).

         After that meeting, Dr. Boylan complained to Ball State's Office of Human Resources about discrimination, and about being called unqualified. Dkt. 55-4 at 24 (Boylan Dep. 114:16-25). Dr. Boylan wanted Kate Stoss, Ball State's Director of Human Resources, to review the job search process that the Accounting Department had used. Id. at 28-29 (132:24-133:5). Ms. Stoss told Dr. Boylan that she had no involvement with the hiring process used to fill the tenure-track accounting position but believed it had been filled. Id. (132:19- 133:5).

         Before graduating in 2016, Dr. Boylan applied for several other tenure-track positions in Ball State's MCOB. Id. at 3 (9:21-12:25). Dr. Boylan did not receive an offer for any of Ball State's tenure-track positions. See dkt. 55-6 at 2 (Seymour Decl. ΒΆ 11); dkt. 55-7 ...

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