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Rose v. Elmhurst College

OPINION FILED AUGUST 1, 1978.

ASHLEY S. ROSE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

ELMHURST COLLEGE, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Du Page County; the Hon. WILLIAM V. HOPF, Judge, presiding.

MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE SEIDENFELD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Ashley S. Rose sued Elmhurst College to recover his position as a tenured professor. He appeals from a summary judgment entered in favor of the college.

Plaintiff was initially employed as an assistant professor of religion for the academic year 1967-1968. He accepted annual offers of employment in 1968, 1969, 1970 and 1971. The offer of employment tendered to him in February of 1971 included the statement: "Tenure Status: At the completion of this academic year you will be granted tenure. Congratulations." Plaintiff thus became a tenured professor at the end of the 1971-72 academic year.

The 1969 Faculty Manual of Elmhurst College stated:

"Permanent tenure on the teaching faculty of the College shall mean the opportunity to accept full-time employment in duties appropriate to his training and experience as a member of the teaching faculty through each successive academic year at a salary within the range for the appointee's rank as indicated by the announced faculty salary schedule of the College for the particular year. The permanent tenure of a member of the teaching faculty shall continue until death, resignation, retirement because of age or disability, discontinuance of his teaching position because of decline in enrollment or lack of funds, or termination of his appointment for adequate cause." (Emphasis added.)

The Manual also stated that:

"Subject only to limitations imposed upon the Board of Trustees by the practical exigencies of enrollment and financial availability as judged by the Board, the applicable provisions set forth in the foregoing paragraphs shall be deemed a part of the College's contractual commitment to each faculty member in consideration of his faithful adherence to his own contractual commitments to the College."

Plaintiff received statements of prospective salary for the 1972-1973 academic year in March 1972; he also received such statements in April 1973; April 1974, and June 1975. The plaintiff, as a tenured professor, was no longer required to sign annual written offers of employment.

In 1974, the trustees, in response to a proposal by the Faculty Council, adopted revisions in the existing Faculty Manual. An internal appeal procedure was provided; and the stated bases for termination of tenured faculty were amended to read:

"The permanent tenure of a member of the teaching faculty shall continue until: retirement, death, or resignation, termination for adequate cause or for medical reasons, termination due to financial exigency or elimination or curtailment of an academic program." (Emphasis added.)

The new manual was approved by a majority of the faculty. There is no indication in the record as to whether plaintiff voted on the proposed changes, which were distributed to each faculty member.

In June of 1975, the college sent plaintiff a letter which terminated his employment effective August 31, 1976 and stated:

"This action is being taken in accordance with institutional procedures for the termination of tenured faculty when an academic program or department is eliminated or curtailed. The criteria applied for termination of your contract are the length of service and rank criteria."

The plaintiff appealed his discharge, following the review procedures set forth (for the first time) in the 1974 version of the Faculty Manual. He first met with the dean of the college, the department chairperson and the division chairperson; then appealed the adverse decision to the Faculty Appeal Board. In the hearing before the board, plaintiff's counsel stated that plaintiff's participation in the review procedures established by the 1974 Faculty Manual was under protest and that he objected to the use of any procedure established by the trustees after the date on which he first received tenure. The Faculty Appeal Board recommended that the college "reconsider" its decision to dismiss the plaintiff. The president of the college, however, whose recommendation was the third step in the review procedure, reached a conclusion contrary to that of the board. Plaintiff as a final step appealed to the ...


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