ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Court of Special Appeals overturned a lower-court decision Thursday and ruled that the University of Baltimore did not break contract or deal unfairly with a professor when it denied her tenure.
Assistant professor Peri Iz sued the university in 1995 after it refused her tenure with the Merrick School of Business, alleging discrimination, incorrect procedure and breach of contract. Iz, who asked to be considered for tenure in 1993 – a year earlier than her contract stipulated – alleged that request and her gender caused the university to hold her to a higher standard.
A Baltimore City Circuit Court jury in July 1996 did not find that discrimination was a factor in the tenure denial. But it awarded Iz $425,000 for breach of contract.
Maryland’s intermediate appeals court ruled Thursday that Iz’s contract called for tenure review but did not guarantee tenure would be granted. It ruled against giving her damages.
The appeal’s court decision stated that universities have wide discretion when deciding whether to grant tenure.
Assistant Attorney General Dawna M. Cobb, who represented the university, said the appellate opinion established that personality and attitude can be considered when making tenure decisions, as long as they are not a coverup for discrimination. Cobb said university officials had concerns that Iz did not work with colleagues on research projects and was unwilling to cooperate with them to solve departmental problems.
The court opinion stated that tenure reviews are qualitative and therefore the university was not out of line in denying Iz tenure because she lacked “collegiality,” an ambiguous term not defined in tenure review procedure.
When asked by the appellate court, University of Baltimore President H. Mebane Turner defined collegiality as “the ability to work with your department to make sure that the University’s going to move ahead.”
Jac Knust, Iz’s attorney, could not be reached.
Iz, who started teaching at the University of Baltimore in 1989, signed a contract in the fall of 1995 to teach at Hong Kong Baptist University.