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Dugan v. Stockton State College

Decided: February 5, 1991.

PENELOPE DUGAN, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
STOCKTON STATE COLLEGE, RESPONDENT-RESPONDENT



On appeal from the State Board of Higher Education.

Pressler, Baime and Arnold M. Stein. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Arnold M. Stein, J.A.D.

Stein

Penelope Dugan appeals the final decision of the State Board of Higher Education rejecting a claim that she has tenure as a faculty member of Stockton State College under the State and County College Tenure Act, N.J.S.A. 18A:60-6 et seq. We reverse and remand for an evidentiary hearing to determine the actual duties performed by Dugan during her thirteen years of service as an employee of Stockton State College.

Dugan was first employed as an instructor in English in July 1976. She signed a one-year letter contract. She was reappointed by letter contract to a series of one-year terms as an English instructor until October 1980, when she signed a contract for the academic year 1980-81 as a "Coordinator of Developmental Education in Reading and Critical Thinking, Office of Central Studies." The contract provided:

This is an unclassified staff position, service in which does not accrue toward tenure. Unclassified staff are eligible for multi-year contracts after five years of continuous service.

Dugan was reappointed to the same position for the academic years 1981-1982 and 1983-1984.

On June 21, 1984, Dugan signed a one-year letter contract as "Assistant Professor of Writing, Faculty of General Studies." The letter, signed by the college president, stated:

Please know that this contract, which supercedes your contract dated December 15, 1983, provides for your appointment to a faculty position. Service in faculty rank does not accrue for a multiyear contract. Upon acceptance of this contract you will be evaluated as a first-year probationary faculty member; and, accordingly, 1984-85 will count as the first year of your eligibility for tenure under appropriate state laws and regulations.

Under her signature, Dugan added the following handwritten statement:

Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:60-6 et seq., nothing contained herein, nor any past action or statement of mine, is to be interpreted as in any way constituting a

waiver or modification of my claim to tenure or a waiver of my right to pursue such claim in any forum at any time.

Dugan continued as an Assistant Professor of Writing for the academic years 1985-86 and 1987-89.

By letter contract dated December 10, 1987, she was again reappointed to the same position for the academic year 1988-89.

The college president stated in this letter:

Your contributions to Stockton are deeply appreciated and I look forward to continuing our work together.

Dugan again added her handwritten claim of tenure to the contract.

Despite the unanimous vote of a faculty review committee, Dugan's supervising dean recommended against her reappointment or acquisition of tenure status. The college's vice president of academic affairs upheld the dean's rejection:

It is my professional judgment that Ms. Dugan does not meet fully the College's institution expectations and criteria for reappointment that confers tenure.

Although the record does not indicate, we assume that the the college's board of trustees also rejected Dugan's tenure claim and her reappointment.

Dugan claims tenure under the State and County College Tenure Act, N.J.S.A. 18A:60-6 et seq. N.J.S.A. 18A:60-8 provides:

Faculty members shall be under tenure in their academic rank, but not in any administrative position, during good behavior, efficiency and satisfactory professional performance, as evidenced by formal evaluation and shall not be dismissed or reduced in compensation except for inefficiency, unsatisfactory professional performance, incapacity or other just cause . . . after employment in such college or by such board of trustees for

a. 5 consecutive calendar years; or

b. 5 consecutive academic years, together with employment at the beginning of the ...


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