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American Association of University Professors v. Bloomfield College

Decided: October 16, 1975.

AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS, BLOOMFIELD COLLEGE CHAPTER, AND EDWARD F. ROBINSON, ET AL., INDIVIDUALLY, AND ON BEHALF OF THE FACULTY AT BLOOMFIELD COLLEGE, PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS,
v.
BLOOMFIELD COLLEGE, A LICENSED INSTITUTION OF HIGHER EDUCATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, MERLE F. ALLSHOUSE, AS PRESIDENT OF BLOOMFIELD COLLEGE, AND INDIVIDUALLY, AND C. RICHARD CARLSON, ET ALS., AS MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF BLOOMFIELD COLLEGE, AND INDIVIDUALLY, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



Lynch, Ackerman and Larner. The opinion of the court was delivered by Larner, J.A.D.

Larner

Defendants appeal from a judgment entered in favor of plaintiffs reinstating the individual plaintiffs to the Bloomfield College faculty and declaring invalid those portions of a resolution of the Board of Trustees of Bloomfield College dated June 21, 1973 terminating the tenure of plaintiffs and other remaining faculty members. The judgment was entered after a nonjury trial before Judge Antell, who articulated the reasons for his determination in a comprehensive opinion. American Assoc. of Univ. Profs. v. Bloomfield College , 129 N.J. Super. 249 (Ch. Div. 1974).

The action was brought to vindicate the right of tenured members of the faculty to continuous employment under the contractual undertaking of the college and to set aside the action of the board of trustees in breach of that undertaking.

The significant tenure provisions of the controlling document, the Faculty Handbook , are the following:

Subparagraph C(3):

Subparagaph C(6):

Termination of continuous appointment because of financial exigency of the institution must be demonstrably bona fide. A situation which makes drastic retrenchment of this sort necessary precludes expansion of the staff at other points at the same time, except in extraordinary circumstances.

These were the contractual provisions upon which defendants relied to justify the tenure termination.

Appellants urge several grounds for reversal.

Burden of Proof

They assert that the trial judge erred in assigning the burden of proof to defendants on the concurrent existence of the following contractual conditions permitting termination: (1) "extraordinary circumstances because of financial exigency of the institution" and (2) "Termination of continuous appointment because of financial exigency must be demonstrably bona fide." The trial court placed the burden of proving these conditions as a prerequisite for terminating tenure on defendants and found that they failed to sustain this burden.

It is manifest that under the controlling agreement among the parties the affected members of the faculty had attained the protection of tenure after completing a seven-year probationary service. This was their vested right which could legally be divested only if the defined conditions occurred. The proof of existence of those conditions as a ...


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