The district court awarded reinstatement along with back pay from the date of termination and rumination to assistant professor as well as being awarded the ability to obtain her master’s degree and if successful, be tenured (Slitter, 2007). Mulberry College appealed the decision by the district court based on the principle of academic deference where the court should defer to the expertise of the academic institution regarding employment decisions of its faculty (Slitter, 2007) (Kaplan ; Lee), 2007).
A question does arise as to why the appellate court gave conditional tenure to Ms. Sundae instead of deferring to the institution since this obviously deals tit faculty promotion and tenure issues. The court had determined that the dean and the president of the college had discriminated against Ms. Sundae in their refusal to award her tenure (Slitter, 2007). She had received disparate treatment relative to male faculty up for tenure in that she was not counseled regarding the need for a masters degree as were her male colleagues.
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She was also denied tenure by the president on the wishes of the dean despite unanimous approval from her peers for tenure (Slitter, 2007). The court actually did not award tenure but made it conditional upon her completing her master’s degree (Slitter, 2007). Another question raised by the case concerns why the court did not remand the tenure decision back to the college after Ms. Sundae received her masters degree. The court evidence points to discrimination on the part of the dean and the college president regarding Ms. Sundae (Slitter, 2007).
The dean recommended and the president concurred, despite overwhelming peer or faculty approval, against tenure. Couple this with different treatments twine her and male faculty up for tenure and a bona fide case for sexual discrimination exists which goes against the premise for academic freedom in giving academic deference to the college (Slitter, 2007). The president of Mulberry College based the tenure denial for Ms. Sundae on the fact she did not have a masters degree. Would the case for the college have been different if the president had based the denial on inadequate scholarship and teaching?
Considering 100% of her peers had stated her scholarship and teaching were excellent and she provided good immunity and institutional service (Slitter, 2007), the answer would have to be no for the faculty committees and the president would then be at odds. Even the dean, despite recommending no tenure, stated her scholarship was good (Slitter, 2007). This case provided a good example of the court knowing when to award academic deference to the academic institution. This case showed when there is a strong case for discrimination, deference should not be given since the employment decision may not be fair and equitable.