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Atkinson v. Lafayette College

August 21, 2006

EVE ATKINSON, APPELLANT
v.
LAFAYETTE COLLEGE; ARTHUR J. ROTHKOPF, ESQUIRE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PRESIDENT OF LAFAYETTE COLLEGE



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (D.C. Civil Action No. 01-cv-02141) District Judge: Honorable Ronald L. Buckwalter.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stagg, District Judge

PRECEDENTIAL

Argued March 9, 2006

Before: AMBRO and BECKER,*fn1 Circuit Judges, STAGG,*fn2 District Judge

OPINION OF THE COURT

In the fall of 1989, Dr. Eve Atkinson ("Atkinson") applied to Lafayette College for the position of "Director of Athletics and Professor and Head, Physical Education and Athletics." She learned of the position from Olav Kollevoll ("Kollevoll"), the departing Director of Athletics at Lafayette College, who had been hired by the College in 1965. Atkinson was hired in December of 1989. Her appointment letter provided, in pertinent part:

. . . [Lafayette College] is pleased to appoint you to the position of Director of Athletics and Professor and Head, Physical Education and Athletics, effective January 29, 1990, with term thereafter at the pleasure of the President of the College and the Board of Trustees. It is further understood that your initial appointment will be through June 30, 1992, and following that period that you would be subject to the procedures for due notice as apply to the faculty which would ensure you a minimum of one year's notice.

Atkinson's employment continued after her initial two and one-half year term. Each year, she received salary letters advising her of an annual increase.

In addition to her appointment letter, the Lafayette College Faculty Handbook and the Statutes of Lafayette College provided further guidance as to the terms and conditions of employment for faculty members. Regarding tenure, the Faculty Handbook stated:

B. Tenure

Tenure as described in the following paragraphs is defined as continuity of service, the institution having relinquished the freedom it normally possesses to terminate appointment, except for cause and subject to provision of the College with respect to retirement.

1. Professors shall have tenure except on an initial appointment to the Lafayette College Faculty. Such initial appointment may be with tenure or for a period not to exceed three years. This appointment shall be followed by appointment with tenure or termination of employment. . . .

5. Notification about Tenure Status

For those not on tenure a decision must be reached by September 1 of the last probationary year as to whether or not tenure will be granted, and the individual must be notified of this decision. In no case, however, will tenure be granted by default. It is the responsibility of the individual concerned to notify his Department Head ...


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