United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
A. Gibney, Jr. United States District Judge
University ("Longwood") denied tenure to Ayse
Nilgun Balas, a woman of Turkish ethnicity and national
origin who taught marketing in the College of Business and
Economics (the "CBE"). According to Longwood, it
denied Balas's tenure application based on the quality of
her scholarship and teaching. According to Balas, Longwood
denied her tenure application based on her national origin
and her opposition to national origin discrimination.
has sued for discrimination and retaliation under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1981. The defendants have moved for summary judgment.
Because Longwood denied Balas tenure for a legitimate,
nondiscriminatory reason (i.e., her scholarship and
teaching), Balas's claims fail. Accordingly, the Court
will grant the defendants' motion for summary judgment.
a state-supported university, typically hires new faculty
members for five-year probationary periods. Within the CBE,
all probationary faculty members receive reviews each fall,
and all faculty members receive reviews each spring. In the
fall, both the relevant department chair and a Promotion and
Tenure Committee (the "P&T
Committee") conduct a review of all probationary
faculty members, and each makes a recommendation on whether
to renew the faculty member's contract. The reviews focus
on three areas: teaching, scholarship, and service. Following
the fifth year review, the probationary faculty member may
apply for tenure. The department chair and the P&T
Committee again both review the applicant and submit separate
recommendations to the Dean of the CBE. The Dean then submits
a recommendation to the Provost, who then submits a
recommendation to the Board of Visitors. The Board of
Visitors makes the ultimate decision on tenure applications.
2009, Longwood hired Balas for a five-year probationary
period as an assistant professor of marketing in the CBE.
Longwood renewed her contract after years one (2009 to 2010)
and two (2010 to 2011).
three (2011 to 2012), John Gaskins, Balas's department
chair, reviewed Balas in the fall and the spring. In November
2011, Gaskins reviewed Balas as a probationary faculty member
and recommended that Longwood renew her contract. In this
review, Gaskins included the following comment:
One area for potential improvement is in the speech patterns
in your presentation. Your command of the vocabulary and
grammar is excellent, and your accent does not interfere with
comprehension, but the cadence and inflections in your speech
patterns might be difficult for some to follow. I suggest
that you might video record some of your presentations and/or
seek vocal coaching.
(Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 10.) In May 2012, Gaskins conducted the
annual faculty evaluation for Balas. He rated her teaching as
"Satisfactory, " but rated her scholarship,
service, and overall performance as "Needs
Improvement." In the comments, Gaskins wrote that
"[l]ittle progress has been made ... in addressing the
cadence and inflection issues cited earlier. As we discussed,
I am concerned that you may not be projecting sufficient
presence in the classroom." (Gaskins Dep. Ex. 6.)
May 2012, Balas met with Paul Barrett, Dean of the CBE. Dean
Barrett told Balas that Longwood would not renew her contract
after the 2012-2013 school year. In this meeting, Dean
Barrett told Balas "that he was issuing a terminating
contract because [Balas was] 'not a good fit' with
the College." Barrett, however, did not provide
"any written explanation of how a 'good fit' is
defined." (Am. Compl. Ex. 2.) Longwood issued Balas a
terminating contract in June 2012. Balas signed the
terminating contract, but added a statement that Dean
Barrett, Department Chair Gaskins, and others had unlawfully
discriminated against her. Balas appealed the terminating
contract to the Faculty Status and Grievance Committee (the
"FSGC") who, in September 2012, recommended
reversing the decision to issue the terminating contract.
Dean Barrett and the Provost affirmed the findings of the
FSGC and reappointed Balas for another year.
Balas's fourth year at Longwood (2012 to 2013), in
November 2012, the P&T Committee unanimously recommended
that Longwood renew Balas's contract for another year. In
his separate fall review, Department Chair Gaskins expressed
"grave reservations" about recommending Balas's
continued appointment. Longwood renewed Balas's contract.
2013, Gaskins conducted the annual faculty evaluation for
Balas. He included a comment that Balas displayed a
disrespectful attitude by failing to use the prescribed forms
for her annual report. Balas responded by letter to Gaskins
(copying Dean Barrett and the President of Longwood)
complaining about Gaskins's comment and saying that it
was (1) discriminatory and (2) retaliatory for Balas having
won her appeal with the FSGC.
Balas's fifth year (2013 to 2014), the P&T Committee
met in October 2013 to review Balas as a probationary faculty
member. At that time, Claire La Roche, Cheryl Adkins, Glenn
Dardick, and Raymond Brastow made up the P&T Committee.
According to Dardick, at the same time as a discussion of
faculty members with foreign accents, including Balas, La
Roche said that some faculty members did not "fit
in" at Longwood. La Roche also shared that she had received
complaints from students that could not understand Dr. Balas.
When questioned about these comments by Dardick, however, La
Roche did not elaborate. La Roche also raised concerns about
Balas's grading curve and research publications, but did
not raise similar concerns about another faculty member under
evaluation. The P&T Committee voted two-two to renew
October 2013, Gaskins conducted his review of Balas as a
probationary faculty member. He rated her teaching as
average, her service as satisfactory, and her number of
publications as good, but expressed concerns about the
quality of the publication outlets. Gaskins commented that
Balas had made "little progress in addressing the
concerns I expressed last year relating to collegiality and
commitment to the institution." (Gaskins Dep. Ex. 15.)
Gaskins recommended that Longwood not renew Balas's
November 2013, in response to Gaskins's review, Balas
asked Gaskins to reconsider his recommendation. Gaskins
responded with a letter explaining why his recommendation
remained unchanged. Balas then asked Gaskins to recuse
himself from her tenure-track process, stating that:
"your outlook toward me is devoid of ...