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JEMMOTT v. CITY UNIV. OF NEW YORK

October 28, 1994

RUPERT A. JEMMOTT, Plaintiff, against CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK, CHARLES W. MERIDETH, ELIZABETH IANNIZZI and THOMAS M. CARROLL, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOAN M. AZRACK

 AZRACK, United States Magistrate Judge:

 This proceeding was referred by consent to the undersigned for all purposes including entry of judgment, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) (1988 & Supp. IV 1992). Accordingly, I conducted a non-jury trial which ran from May 2 through May 5, 1994.

 The issue presented at trial was whether plaintiff's discharge from his administrative post at the New York City Technical College was the result of race-based discrimination violative of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. For the reasons stated herein, I conclude that his dismissal was lawful.

 I. FINDINGS OF FACT

 This case concerns a man who attempted with the best of intentions to achieve a higher good for the institution that employed him, and instead met with censure, public humiliation, and irreparable damage to his career. Dr. Rupert A. Jemmott, an educational administrator by profession and the plaintiff in this action, is an African-American man who was employed at New York City Technical College ("City Tech") of the City University of New York (CUNY) system from January 1987 until he was discharged on February 13, 1991. *fn1" In March of 1990, the college acquired a new president, Dr. Charles W. Merideth, who figures prominently in the history recounted below. President Merideth is also African-American.

 Plaintiff was employed at City Tech at a time of financial hardship for the college, consequent to substantial budget cuts that were anticipated in the CUNY system. Indeed, President Merideth was instructed by his superiors to reduce the City Tech administration and trim vital services that had previously been available to the students and faculty. Accordingly, the President was engaged principally in seeking new sources of funding and reorganizing the institution, particularly its administration. Because the changes were expected to be painful and the President was new to the college, one of his foremost priorities was to muster as much support as possible from every important body therein especially the faculty and students. These two groups were of particular consequence, as both possessed the ability to seriously undermine any leadership of which they did not approve. For example, chronic student unrest had already wreaked considerable havoc at the college, and threatened to make it appear an unattractive employment prospect to teachers and administrators whom the President was trying to court. Further, the faculty possessed the ability to give the President a vote of no confidence, the effects of which would have been devastating and would likely have marked the end of his employment at the college. Consequently, the support of the students and faculty was essential to the success not only of the college, but also of its leadership.

 Reductions in the college's administration were likely to involve reductions in the number of its employees covered by the Executive Compensation Plan (ECP), a vehicle the CUNY system had established to employ high-level administrative personnel. Indeed, during the period in question, President Merideth reduced the number of ECP slots at the college from seventeen to nine. Further, he changed the structure of the college administration, placing the Provost in a position of central authority and requiring the Vice Presidents who headed the particular departments to report to that person. Only through the Provost then would the Vice Presidents' concerns reach the President.

 Plaintiff's various positions at City Tech were covered by the ECP. Initially hired to fill the position of Associate Dean of Student Affairs, plaintiff was promoted twice: first to Acting Dean of Student Affairs in June 1990, and then again the following September to Acting Vice President of Student Affairs. Both promotions were executed by President Merideth. After each took effect, the prior position plaintiff had occupied was eliminated. *fn2"

 In addition to receiving three promotions during the four years of his employment, plaintiff also received at least seven substantial salary increases, and by the time he was discharged was making $ 96,031.00 annually. n3 The last of these raises was granted in September of 1990. Further, at the time plaintiff became the Acting Vice President the college began to contemplate seeking an individual to fill the position on a permanent basis, and plaintiff was told that he would be eligible to apply for it. Indeed, approximately two months later and less than three months before his discharge, President Merideth informed plaintiff not only that it was appropriate for him to apply for the permanent position, but that there had been no problems with his performance or management style that were likely to preclude him from being given serious consideration. n3 Plaintiff's salary history is reflected in the following table: DATE SALARY (ANNUAL) 1/5/87 $ 62,413 4/1/87 65,534 11/1/87 74,025 6/16/88 77,727 4/6/89 81,614 6/1/90 87,980 9/6/90 96,031

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