United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
Terrence Kemp Magistrate Judge.
OPINION AND ORDER
ALGENON L. MARBLEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment
(ECF No. 71) of Defendants Columbus State Community College,
et al. (“CSCC”). For the reasons set forth below,
the Court DENIES CSCC's Motion for
Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff Thomas Crawford's First
Amendment Retaliation claim, GRANTS
CSCC's Motion for Summary Judgment as to Crawford's
Age Discrimination claim, and GRANTS
CSCC's Motion for Summary Judgment as to Crawford's
claims against CSCC President David Harrison.
Crawford, born September 25, 1943, has served as an adjunct
lecturer in the Department of Biological and Physical
Sciences at CSCC since 2002. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 21 at
¶¶ 1, 10). Crawford has a Ph.D. in mechanical
engineering and an M.S. in nuclear engineering. For a few
years, in addition to his position at CSCC, Crawford lectured
at The Ohio State University (OSU). (Crawford Dep. I, ECF No.
64 at 12). Crawford has attested that student evaluations of
his teaching have been “almost unanimously
positive” and that the evaluations of his work
conducted by Ken Fisher, Department Lead Instructor, have
been “uniformly positive.” (Crawford Decl., ECF
No. 72-1 at 2-3).
addition to his lecturing duties, Crawford has also been
active in developing curriculum for CSCC's engineering
program. Jack Cooley, Senior Vice President for Academic
Affairs at CSCC, testified that one of CSCC's goals is to
prepare students to transfer to schools like OSU. To
accomplish that goal, CSCC decided to develop engineering
courses and find a professor capable of teaching those
courses. (Cooley Dep., ECF No. 63 at 99). To that end,
roughly a decade into Crawford's employment, Michael
Hailu, the Dean of Crawford's department (and a defendant
here), asked Crawford to develop a “Fundamentals of
Engineering” program. (ECF No. 21 at ¶ 14).
Crawford developed the curriculum, which CSCC subsequently
offered as two separate introductory engineering courses.
(Id.). Crawford taught those courses as an adjunct
in addition to training other lecturers on how to teach them.
Crawford had also been the subject of scrutiny for some of
his behavior on campus. From approximately 2003 to 2012,
Crawford publicly posted pro-life literature and materials
such as rosaries and small rubber replicas of fetuses that
had been painted red to represent blood and make them look
more “realistic.” (ECF No. 64, 36-37 at 72).
Hailu also recalled that Crawford had shown a YouTube video
about abortion to his students while they were in class.
(Hailu Dep., ECF No. 67 at 66-69). Crawford, for his part,
denies that allegation. (ECF No. 64 at 138).
testified that he received significant backlash to his
political and religious speech. On April 4, 2012, Crawford
was slipped an anonymous note warning him to stop placing
things on corkboards in classrooms. (Crawford Dep. II, ECF
No. 65 at 13). About one week later, Crawford received
another anonymous note that read: “Hey, Crawford, keep
your right wing, nonsensical, religious nuttery out of my
secular college or I will make it my personal mission in life
that you are fired and never work in education in this state
again.” (Appx. Crawford Dec., ECF No. 73-9).
point, CSCC administrators began monitoring Crawford's
public postings, and on April 23, 2012, Hailu spoke to
Crawford about his activities “and ordered him to stop
all postings on campus.” (ECF No. 21, ¶¶
21-22). Hailu emailed then-Dean Karen Muir about the meeting,
stating that he had “discussed the issue of concern
from President's office, with Professor Tom Crawford, and
he understands the concern and the CSCC policy regarding the
posting of religious and political materials.” (Hailu
Dep. Exh., ECF No. 67-1 at 117). After that warning, Crawford
met with the Human Resources Department-one of the employees
there told him that it was permissible to post materials on
outside bulletin boards and on the employees-only floor of
the building, but that he should not post anything in the
classrooms without permission. (ECF No. 64 at 61-62).
Crawford therefore continued posting materials on the outside
bulletin boards but, from April 2012 on, stopped posting
things in classrooms. (Id. at 65).
2013, Crawford sent an email to his Engineering 1182 students
indicating that he was available to do some tutoring, but
that his “three classes sum to 10 contact hours and the
limit has been reduced to 11 hours, thanks to
ObamaCare.” (ECF No. 64 at 113-18; Def. Exh. 5). A
student forwarded that email to Hailu, writing that the
missive was “unprofessional.” (Def. Exh. 5).
Hailu then told Crawford that, he, too, believed the email
was unprofessional and asked Crawford to come to his office
to discuss the incident. (Id.). Craword does not
recall Hailu's exact words, but indicated that he was
told not to repeat the incident and that Crawford should
“keep politics out of [the] classroom, just do
physics.” (ECF No. 64 at 122).
that year, Crawford and another adjunct instructor asked
then-Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs, Karen
Muir, about the reduction of hours for adjunct instructors
and the new engineering classes taught in the Biological and
Physical Sciences Department. (ECF No. 64 at 129). Hailu
apparently got wind of this meeting, and subsequently
criticized Crawford and his fellow adjunct instructor for
being “insubordinate” in speaking to Muir rather
than communicating their concerns to his immediate supervisor
or to the Department Chair. (Def. Exh. 7). He also wrote a
summary of what constituted, in his view, Crawford's
About a year ago, you sent YouTube videos (political in
nature) to your students and the students complained to the
President's office regarding the content of the YouTube
videos. The President's office, through proper channels
contacted me and I have warned you so that this would not
happen again; you are only to do your job, i.e. teach physics
and engineering to your students - not get into or promote
your politics to your students in class. Additionally,
employees and students brought to my attention that you were
placing political posters and signs across the campus. I also
spoke with you and about this and advised you to stop.
Moreover, at the end of Summer (on July 31st) for the Autumn
semester you sent your students an email with your syllabus
in which you included a statement regarding ObamaCare. Again,
the email was forwarded to me from several students
indicating that your opinion regarding ObamaCare in a class
email was “unprofessional.” I discussed this
matter with you and you apologized to me as well as you asked
me to send an apology email to the students affected. I
explained to you that this was going to be your last warning
for this kind of behavior.
(Id.). At that time, Crawford was not formally
next incident occurred in December 2013. One of
Crawford's students approached him and mentioned the idea
of recommending Crawford for a full-time position due to his
“superior teaching and tutoring.” (ECF No. 21 at
¶ 15). The student prepared a recommendation letter and
petition for David Harrison, the President of CSCC (and also
a defendant in this case), which outlined the case for
promoting Crawford. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-17). The
student submitted this petition and recommendation letter to
President Harrison and Hailu sometime in November 2013.
receipt of the petition and letter, President Harrison met
with the student-author. (Id. at ¶ 18).
President Harrison then met with Hailu and Lisa Schneider,
the Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences
(parent-college to Crawford's department). (Id.
at ¶¶ 3, 19). Together, the three administrators
concluded that Crawford “orchestrated” the letter
seeking his promotion to a full-time position. (Id.
at ¶ 19). Hailu later testified that some students had
expressed concerns that if they did not sign the petition,
their grades may suffer. (ECF No. 67 at 153). And Crawford
testified that Hailu told him: “Do you think this is a
positive for you? This is negative. This is not how we hire
people. I heard about this coming along. I heard that these
students were intimidated into signing this.” (ECF No.
for his part, vigorously contests that he had anything to do
with orchestrating the letter and that he only became aware
of the letter after it was drafted. But Schneider was
nevertheless concerned about the unfolding events. She
contemporaneously observed that, due to Crawford's
pattern of behavior-as well as complaints that Crawford had
been biased against international or minority students-
“[i]f a full-time position in Engineering were ever to
materialize, Thomas Crawford may not be suitable for the
position.” (ECF No. 63-1 at 70).
2014, roughly six months after receipt of the student
petition and recommendation letter, CSCC posted an opening
for a full-time tenure track position in the Department of
Biological and Physical Sciences, with an
“Engineering-Physics Emphasis.” (ECF No. 21 at
¶ 29). The posting sought a successful candidate who
possessed “[a]n appropriate combination of education,
training, course work[, ] and experience, ” and it
included minimum and preferred qualifications which Crawford
far surpassed. (Id. at ¶ 30).
who holds advanced degrees in Nuclear and Mechanical
Engineering, applied for the position. (Id. at
¶¶ 10, 31). Crawford's application included a
seventeen-page letter and resume. (Id. at ¶
31). In his application letter, Crawford mentioned the
student petition and recommendation letter from the previous
December. (Id.). When he applied for the full-time
position, Crawford was seventy-one years old. (Id.).
has memorialized its hiring process in two documents: the
Columbus State Community College Policy and Procedures Manual
and the Columbus State Community College-Columbus State
Educators' Association Collective bargain Agreement. (ECF
No. 63-1). Pursuant to those procedures, Hailu convened a
hiring committee to consider the applications that CSCC
received. (ECF No. 21 at ¶ 33). Under the hiring
process, committee members independently were to score the
objective qualifications of each applicant and then choose
the highest-ranking applicants, based on the committee's
combined scores, for interviews. (Id.).
alleges that at least four typical hiring procedures were not
strictly followed in the filling of the full-time position in
the Department of Biological and Physical Sciences. First, it
was typical practice that the chair of the hiring process-in
this case, Hailu-would not have substantive input on the
hiring process. (Muir Dep., ECF No. 66 at 22; ECF No. 63 at
69-70). That practice was not followed in this case.
(See ECF No. 67 at 250-51). Second, CSCC policy
required the hiring manager to “make every
attempt” to interview a minimum of six candidates to
ensure a diverse pool of potential hires. (ECF No. 66-1 at
2). Here, the search committee agreed to interview no more
than five candidates. (ECF No. 67, 272-73). Third, Human
Resources typically would have trained the search committee
to ask ten specific questions of candidates-questions that
avoided discussion of race, religion, national origin, and
age. (Id. at 229). But because the same search
committee had just filled a position for an Instructor in
Astronomy, Hailu and a representative from Human Resources
agreed that it was not necessary to repeat the training.
(Id.) Finally, under CSCC policy, the search
committee was to provide Human Resources with the names of
three candidates, in unranked order, so the Department Chair
and Dean could conduct their interviews and independently
reach a conclusion. (ECF No. 66 at 24). That conclusion would
be communicated in a consultative meeting with the Department
Chair, the Dean, and the Provost-the ultimate hiring decision
rests with the Provost with approval from the President of
the CSCC. (ECF No. 66-1 at 2). But the committee only
elevated one name for the final interviews. (Schneider Dep.,
ECF No. 69 at 84)
applicants applied for the position. In the initial meeting
of the search committee, the committee agreed to interview
five finalists-Hassan Borteh, Jeevan Baretto, Christian
Feldt, Ahmad Saatchi, and James Toney. (ECF No. 67 at 265).
Hailu recalled that someone mentioned the possibility of a
“courtesy” interview for Crawford; the idea was
ultimately rejected. (Id. at 305).
little information about how the committee narrowed the
applicants to this list of five finalists. The record does
contain, however, the rankings of Kent Fisher, Physics
Professor and Lead Physics Instructor at CSCC, and part of
the search committee. (ECF No. 71-1, at ¶ 4). In an
email to Hailu on July 25, 2014, Fisher ranked Crawford
second among all forty-nine applicants and Jeevan Baretto
ninth among the forty-nine candidates. (ECF No. 73-6). Before
the applicant pool was narrowed to the five finalists, Fisher
had advocated “weeding out” candidates that did
not have a Ph.D. or M.S. in Engineering. (Id.) And
after the five finalists were selected, Fisher wrote Hailu an
email observing that “if Borteh and Tony don't have
[engineering] degrees, then we can't hire them for the
position and should not offer them interviews.”
only other evidence related to the individual committee
members' ranking of the finalist candidates is
Hailu's list of his personal selections-Crawford was not
among them. (ECF No. 67 at 254). When asked why Crawford was
not on his list of finalists, Hailu replied that it was
“[b]ecause of [Crawford's] activity. I was
frustrated with him. In my opinion he's not the best
candidate.” (Id. at 255). He continued:
“His behavior, his character, his everything is very