The opinion of the court was delivered by: DAVID LARIMER, Chief Judge, District
Plaintiff, Cherif Sadki, appearing pro se, commenced this action under
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.
Plaintiff, a native of Algeria, is a practicing Muslim and a member of
the Berber ethnic group. In 1998, while he was employed as a visiting
professor at defendant SUNY College at Brockport ("Brockport"), plaintiff
unsuccessfully applied for an assistant professor position in Brockport's
Foreign Languages Department ("the department"). Plaintiff alleges that
the reason that he was not offered that position is that Dr. Patricia
Siegel, the then-acting chair of the department, who allegedly had some
input into the decisionmaking process, harbored discriminatory animus
toward plaintiff on account of his race, national origin, and religion.
Defendant has now moved for summary judgment.
Plaintiff, who speaks both English and French, received a bachelors
degree in education from Algiers University in 1981, and a Ph.D. (with
concentrations in African studies, comparative education, international
studies, and sociology of education) from the State University of New
York at Buffalo in 1994. McLean Decl. (Docket #35), Ex. B. Plaintiff was
a lecturer at Brockport from 1990 until 1993, and a visiting professor
beginning in September 1995. While he was a visiting professor, plaintiff
taught four French courses per semester. Sadki Decl. (Docket #43) ¶
During the 1997-98 academic year, the department conducted a search to
fill the position of Assistant Professor of Foreign Languages/French
("the position"). McLean Decl. ¶ 3. A search committee ("the
committee"), made up of members of the department and one student, was
formed to screen and interview candidates, and to make a recommendation
to the Dean of the School of Letters and Sciences, Robert J. McLean,*fn1
as to who should be hired to fill the position. McLean, who was not bound
by the committee's recommendation, McClean Decl. ¶ 4, would in turn
advise Brockport's President, Paul Yu, which candidate McLean believed
should be hired. According to defendants, Yu made the final decision on
whom to hire. McLean Reply Decl. (Docket #46) ¶ 15.
Prior to the commencement of the search, Dr. Elaine Miller, the
then-chair of the department, submitted to McLean a written Request for
Authorization to Search ("search authorization"). The requirements set
forth in the search authorization were:
Ph.D. or equivalent in French/Francophone Studies
or related area. Experience in teaching language.
Commitment to teach language, civilization, and
literature to undergraduate
students. Familiarity with multimedia applications.
Demonstrated ability to conduct and publish scholarly
research. Capacity to function effectively in a
culturally diverse environment.
According to McLean, plaintiff did not meet these criteria, because his
Ph.D. was not in "French/Francophone Studies or [a] related area," but
rather in education and other non-French-related areas. McLean also
describes plaintiffs scholarship and research as "minimal." McLean Decl.
McLean adds that he "knew that Dr. Sadki was well-liked in the
Department," and that "there would be many in the Department who would
want to hire him for the French position." McLean Decl. ¶ 6. He
states that he was therefore "surprised when [he] received the
Department's Search Authorization because Dr. Sadki did not meet the
basic, minimum qualifications for the job as described by the
Department." McLean Decl. ¶ 7. He states that "[t]ypically, when a
position is available and an academic department knows of a person they
would like to hire to fill the position, but they are required to conduct
a search, they will tailor the hiring criteria to fit the desired
candidate." McLean Decl. ¶ 9.
In a memorandum dated February 11, 1998, the committee informed McLean
that it had chosen four candidates to invite for on-campus interviews:
Sadki, Giles Carjuzza, Mary Beth Vogl, and Donna Wilkerson. McLean Decl.
Ex. C. As part of the interview process, McLean met with each candidate.
McLean states that in accordance with his usual practice, after he had
spoken with all four candidates, and before receiving the committee's
recommendation, McLean ranked the candidates. According to McLean, his
rankings, from highest to lowest, were: Wilkerson, Vogl, Carjuzza, and
Sadki. McLean Decl. ¶ 14.
In early March 1998, the committee sent its written recommendations to
McLean. Although the committee did not expressly rank the candidates, it
is clear that they preferred Sadki over the other three. Their comments
about Sadki included the following: "Dr. Sadki has demonstrated
excellence in teaching as well as outstanding service to the department,
the college, and the community"; "[s]tudent evaluation of his teaching
ranges from very good to excellent"; "[p]eer evaluations through
classroom observations are also extremely favorable"; and a number of
other very positive, if not glowing, assessments of Sadki's abilities.
McLean Decl. Ex. D.
The only negative comment made by the committee about Sadki was that
his "accomplishments in scholarship have not been strong up to this
point." The committee suggested, however, that this was understandable in
light of the facts that Sadki had only recently received his Ph.D., and
that he had been teaching four courses per semester since September 1995.
The committee also noted that Sadki was working on a book on African
education, and added that "[h]is expertise in French/Francophone
literature and culture will enable him to carry out relevant research in
those areas." At any rate, the committee clearly did not consider Sadki's
limited research up to that point to be a serious problem or impediment
to his candidacy, since it concluded that he would be "a perfect fit" for
The committee also indicated that it considered Wilkerson to be an
acceptable candidate. It stated that although Wilkerson had not yet
received her Ph.D. in French, she was scheduled to defend her
dissertation in June 1998. Otherwise, the committee's comments about her
were favorable, and the committee concluded that she "would be a good
fit" for the department, but the overall tone of the memorandum
suggests, and indeed defendant does not deny, that the committee's first
choice for the position was Sadki.
The committee's recommendations notwithstanding, McLean states that he
remained convinced that Sadki did not meet the minimum requirements for
the position. In reaching that conclusion, he states that he was also
influenced by a conversation that he had with President Yu earlier that
year in which Yu stressed the importance to him of making high-quality
faculty appointments. McLean states that he knew that Sadki "was not the
kind of appointment President Yu would want to make" because of Sadki's
lack of qualifications for the position. McLean Decl. ¶ 19.
McLean states that he "knew that the members of the Search Committee
would not be pleased with a decision not to hire Dr. Sadki," however,
McLean Decl. ¶ 19, so he decided to obtain input from two other deans
and an associate dean at Brockport. He gave each of them Sadki's and
Wilkerson's curricula vitae ("CVs") as well as the position criteria and
requirements, and asked for their opinions. McLean states that all three
deans thought that Wilkerson was qualified, but that Sadki was not.
McLean Decl. ¶ 20.
McLean also states that "[a]t some time," though he does not say
exactly when, he "did become aware that Dr. Siegel shared [McLean's]
opinion that Dr. Sadki did not meet the minimum qualifications for the
French position." McLean Decl. ¶ 24. McLean states, however, that
Siegel never said anything to him about Sadki's race, religion or
national origin, that McLean had already ranked the candidates (with
Sadki lowest) when he talked with Siegel, and that her assessment of
Sadki had no impact on McLean's decision not to recommend to President Yu
that Sadki be chosen for the position. McLean Decl. ¶¶ 25, 26.
In a memorandum dated March 6, 1998, McLean recommended to President Yu
that Wilkerson be chosen for the position. McLean Decl. Ex. F. Along with
the memo, McLean sent
Yu the committee's recommendations, and Sadki's and Wilkerson's CVs. He
stated that "[t]he department met with [McLean on March 6] to express
their strong support for Sadki," who was "their top choice." McLean
added, "My problem [with Sadki] is that I don't believe he meets the
minimum qualifications according to their initial screening checklist."
McLean also told Yu that the other deans whose opinions he had solicited
thought that Wilkerson, but not Sadki, was qualified for the position.
McLean said that "[t]he department made arguments that Sadki did meet the
qualifications, by extended interpretation of the requirements, although
some admitted that he would have rated in the "C" ...