Trinity College Found to Break Its Own Rules in Tenure Denial Case

Academe, March/April 1999 | Go to article overview

Trinity College Found to Break Its Own Rules in Tenure Denial Case


AFTER A CONNECTICUT JURY awarded Leslie Craine, a professor of organic chemistry, $12.7 million in her tenure-denial claim against Trinity College this past January, news services focused mainly on the surprisingly large award figure. For Craine, however, the size of the award is not the most important part of her victory over the Hartford-based college.

What matters most to her, she says, is the fact that the jury recognized that Trinity violated the procedures set forth in the college's faculty handbook in turning her down for tenure. "The jury," contends Craine, "wanted to send a message to the college that it needs to follow its own rules." The jury found Trinity guilty of sex bias, breach of contract, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Trinity's handbook requires that probationary faculty undergo a review by an appointments and promotions committee in their second and fourth years of service; a decision on tenure is made in the sixth year. After each review, the committee must submit a letter on its decision. If it denies tenure to a candidate, it must refer to concerns spelled out in the fourth-year review letter and discuss how the candidate failed to do what was needed.

Craine received a favorable letter in her second year, but in her fourth year the committee asked that she focus her scholarly activities on original research projects in her laboratory and on publishing the results. "I had intended to publish the results of my lab work anyway," Craine explains. In 1993, when an article she wrote appeared in the Journal of Organic Chemistry, the most important journal in her field, she thought she had satisfied the committee's expectations. Later that year, however, the committee voted to deny Craine tenure.

In justifying its decision, the appointments and promotions committee noted that Craine had published only one artide in her six years at Trinity. "There is no formula," argues Felix Springer, counsel for Trinity. "It was a question of her productivity. Over the six years she was at Trinity, Craine did not meet the standard for tenure."

Craine says otherwise. While she was at Trinity, Craine explains, she published several articles in refereed journals. The one in the Journal of Organic Chemistry was the only article based on research conducted in her laboratory at Trinity; the others dealt with experiments carried out before she came to the college. Craine could, however, have reported the findings of her 1993 article in several discrete pieces-it is common in the sciences to break down research findings that way. …

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Trinity College Found to Break Its Own Rules in Tenure Denial Case
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