Court backs University in tenure discrimination case

by Kamariea Forcier

The Minnesota Court of Appeals decided Tuesday that a former University assistant professor was not discriminated against when in 1995 she was denied tenure for a second time.
Aparna Ganguli was a math professor in the University’s General College from 1985 to 1992. She began teaching in 1986 on a six-year tenure track.
Instructors on the six-year tenure track must leave the University if they are denied tenure, according to the University’s tenure code.
Ganguli, who is from India, claimed she was denied tenure because of her race and gender.
She was originally recommended 12-2 for tenure by faculty in General College’s division of science, business and mathematics. She was also approved for tenure 3-1 by the University’s Non-Health Sciences Promotion and Tenure Committee. But when Ganguli’s case reached Jim Infante, former senior vice president for Academic Affairs, he denied her tenure.
In a letter to Ganguli, Infante wrote, “I was not convinced … that your scholarship achieved the threshold of quantity or quality that I find acceptable for the awarding of indefinite tenure.”
Appealed tenure cases at the school are heard by the University Senate Judiciary Committee. A three-member panel of the committee denied her tenure, so Ganguli appealed to the entire 33-member committee. The full committee also denied her tenure.
Ganguli then took her case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, and won.
Because the University Senate Judicial Committee is equivalent to District court, cases can only be appealed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
The 1994 decision returned by that court ruled that Ganguli’s case must be reheard. “From its inception, this case has been riddled with error,” stated the appeals court.
The University Senate Judicial Committee reheard the case in 1995, and again found that Ganguli should not be granted tenure.
Ganguli appealed the decision to the higher court again in 1996, but this time the appeals court ruled in favor of the University.
“There is no evidence that the University failed to exercise professional judgment when it denied Ganguli tenure,” stated the decision released Tuesday.
One of Ganguli’s major claims in her second appeal to the higher court was that procedures were violated in the University Senate’s judicial review. However, the court found that the committee was rational in its decision to deny tenure to Ganguli.
“Because there is substantial evidence in the record supporting the panel’s finding, we cannot set it aside,” stated the appeals court decision.