United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.
Sharlene McEvoy brought suit against Fairfield University,
alleging age discrimination in violation of the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et
seq. (“ADEA”). Fairfield filed a motion for
summary judgment. For the reasons discussed below, the motion
for summary judgment is GRANTED.
following facts, which are taken from the parties' Local
Rule 56(a) statements, supporting exhibits, and briefs, are
undisputed unless otherwise indicated.
Dr. McEvoy's Appointment as Director of the Pre-Law
McEvoy began teaching at Fairfield University, an institution
of higher education, in 1986. ECF No. 25 at ¶¶ 1,
4; ECF No. 30-1 at ¶¶ 1, 4. In May 2012, Senior
Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Paul J. Fitzgerald
sought applications from the faculty to lead a Pre-Law
Advisory Program (“the Program”). ECF No. 25 at
¶ 5; ECF No. 30-1 at ¶ 5. Dr. McEvoy applied, ECF
No. 25 at ¶ 6; ECF No. 30-1 at ¶ 6, and Dr.
Fitzgerald appointed her to a three-year term as Director of
the Program on July 3, 2012, ECF No. 25 at ¶ 7; ECF No.
30-1 at ¶ 7.
appointment letter, Dr. Fitzgerald said that he was impressed
with Dr. McEvoy's proposals; he specifically highlighted
her proposals to (1) form a Pre-Law Club; (2) gather and
analyze data on GPAs, LSAT scores, and law school admission
statistics; (3) increase the number of internships; and (4)
reconnect with Fairfield alumni. ECF No. 27-6 at 2. He
advised Dr. McEvoy that the Office of Alumni Relations, the
Office of Institutional Research, and the Advancement
Division,  as well as an individual named Cath
Borgman, would be helpful resources as she implemented these
Dr. McEvoy's First Term as Director of the
2012-2013 academic year was Dr. McEvoy's first year as
Director of the Program. ECF No. 25 at ¶ 7; ECF No. 30-1
at ¶ 7. At the end of the year, she submitted an annual
report about the Program to Dr. David Sapp, who oversaw the
Program in his role as Associate Vice President for Academic
Affairs. ECF No. 27-7 at 2-6; ECF No. 27-1 at ¶ 11.
After reviewing the report, Dr. Sapp requested additional
information from Dr. McEvoy about student LSAT scores and the
impact of the LSAT boot camp on those scores; the students
participating in internships, the job shadow program, and law
advising; and Dr. McEvoy's goals for the next two years.
ECF No. 27-11 at 2-3. Dr. McEvoy provided him with this
additional information on July 23, 2013 by return email, ECF
No. 27-11 at 2-3, but did not include the bulk of this
information in subsequent annual reports, ECF No. 25 at
¶ 13; ECF No. 30-1 at ¶ 13; ECF No. 27-8; ECF No.
27-9; ECF No. 27-10. Dr. McEvoy says that she did not include
“specific information about specific students” in
her reports because she was concerned about protecting
student confidentiality and because the template that she
obtained for annual reports did not call for specific
information about individual students. ECF No. 30-1 at ¶
13. She does not explain from whom she obtained the template.
Fitzgerald left Fairfield in June 2014 and Dr. Lynn Babington
became the Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs in July
2014. ECF No. 25 at ¶ 15; ECF No. 30-1 at ¶ 15.
Around the same time, Dr. Sapp left Fairfield and was
replaced by Dr. Yohuru Williams. ECF No. 25 at ¶ 16; ECF
No. 30-1 at ¶ 16. Fairfield states that, in the course
of this transition, Dr. Sapp voiced concerns about the
Program and Dr. McEvoy's effectiveness to Dr. Williams.
ECF No. 25 at ¶¶ 17-18. Before Dr. Sapp left the
university, he met with Dr. Williams and Dr. McEvoy to
discuss the Program. ECF No. 25 at ¶ 19; ECF No. 30-1 at
¶ 19. Dr. McEvoy asserts that there was little
substantive discussion about the Program during this meeting.
ECF No. 30-1 at ¶ 19; ECF No. 27-3 at 36. But both
parties agree that she was asked if she had any thoughts
about who should take over as Director when her term ended.
ECF No. 25 at ¶ 19; ECF No. 27-3 at 35-36. They also
agree that she did not suggest anyone to be her successor or
ask why she would not be continuing in the position. ECF No.
25 at ¶ 19; ECF No. 27-3 at 36-37. Dr. McEvoy testified
that Dr. Sapp suggested two names as potential successors at
the end of her term-Gwen Alphonso and Debra Strauss. ECF No.
27-3 at 37. Dr. McEvoy made no response when Dr. Sapp
mentioned Alphonso and Strauss. Id. Dr. Alphonso was
ultimately chosen as Dr. McEvoy's successor in 2016. ECF
No. 30-16 at 2.
asserts that during the 2014-2015 academic year-the third
year of Dr. McEvoy's term and the first year Dr. Williams
supervised the Program-Dr. Williams met with Dr. McEvoy and
conducted his own assessment of the Program. ECF No. 25 at
¶¶ 20, 22. Although Dr. McEvoy admits that Dr.
Williams spoke with Dr. Babington and the Advancement Office,
she argues that “[a]n assessment that was limited to
speaking with only Dr. Babington and the development office
would not have provided for much of an assessment.” ECF
No. 30-1 at ¶ 20; see also id. at ¶ 22.
asserts that there were a number of issues with Dr.
McEvoy's directorship of the Program. First, Fairfield
asserts that Dr. McEvoy was not sufficiently accessible to
students. Fairfield points to Dr. McEvoy's testimony that
she held office hours only on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday,
and that she did not have access to email at her home. ECF
No. 25 at ¶ 24; ECF No. 27-3 at 5-7. Dr. McEvoy denies
that she was inaccessible and asserts that she was available
to meet with students by appointment if they were unable to
meet during her office hours. ECF No. 30-1 at ¶ 24; ECF
No. 30-7 at ¶ 88. She also notes that her contact
information, including her phone number and email address,
was included on written materials distributed in connection
with the Program, and on the Program's website. ECF No.
30-7 at ¶ 88. She does not deny, however, that she only
had access to email while on campus or that she was typically
absent from the school on Thursdays and Fridays. ECF No. 27-3
at 7. Dr. Williams testified that he heard
“anecdotal stories from students who said they found it
very difficult to get in touch with [Dr. McEvoy] to arrange
time for advising.” ECF No. 27-13 at 65. He also
testified that when he shared his concerns about availability
and accessibility with Dr. McEvoy, he “remember[ed] her
kind of defending herself and . . . immediately becoming a
little defensive about it.” Id. at 20.
Finally, he testified that he himself had trouble getting in
touch with Dr. McEvoy: “[W]e were trying to get in
touch with Progressor McEvoy and were not able to get in
touch with her. And that was a consistent theme that I had
with her over the course of my engagement with her in those
roles . . . I know for a fact we had trouble getting in touch
with her.” ECF No. 30-11 at 64. Dr. Babington testified
that, based on the information she had from Dr. Williams, she
came to the conclusion that Dr. McEvoy was inaccessible to
students. ECF No. 27-12 at 20.
Fairfield asserts that Dr. McEvoy did not have a good
relationship with the Advancement Office, which is
responsible for raising funds for Fairfield and the Program.
ECF No. 25 at ¶ 26. Mr. Christopher Pates, a development
officer in the Advancement Office, was responsible for
raising funds for various programs, including for the Pre-Law
Program. ECF No. 27-13 at 31. He testified that Dr. McEvoy
provided little assistance in developing a case statement
that was to be used for fund raising:
Q. So about four weeks after the meeting you remember
emailing Professor McEvoy a draft of the case statement?
. . .
A. I may have called Sue Quinlivan during the drafting
process. I didn't interact directly with Sharlene McEvoy.
I did ask some questions to have passed on, and I think I
sent some email with questions that didn't get a
response, so I called, I copied Sue Quinlivan and asked her,
and it had to do with - in a case for support you have how
the donors will be recognized, how they'll be involved,
and we didn't have that in our case, so I was asking
those types of questions, what do you think if we did this,
could you ask Professor McEvoy if we could do that, that type
of thing, can you follow up on an email that I sent here,
trying to figure out if we could build that section out in
the case or not.
. . .
A. She sent the document back with very minor edits, and no
real comments. That, too, I though was different. There's
usually some feedback, when you do this with a person who
owns the program, and there was no feedback. The only
feedback - and if I remember right - and I wish I had a copy
of the document, but there might have been a one word change
in the five or six pages of narrative, but there were three
changes in her bio. So she had spent time editing her bio,
but she didn't spend time amplifying the vision, which I
just, again, I thought was strange, and it was certainly
unusual in my experiences with faculty.
ECF No. 27-14 at 10-11. He also testified that “every
time [he suggested] something [to Dr. McEvoy] it was being
sort of shut down [by Dr. McEvoy] before [they] even had a
chance to brainstorm it, ” id. at 7, and that
she complained about him even though he treated her no
differently than he treated other faculty, id. at
12. Dr. McEvoy admits that she complained about Mr. Pates,
but states that Mr. Pates was only concerned with raising
money and did not criticize her performance as Director of
the Program. ECF No. 30-1 at ¶¶ 25-26. Mr. Pates
agrees that his suggestions to Dr. McEvoy “would have
had to do with donors interacting with the program.”
ECF No. 27-14 at 14. He also testified about his criticisms
of Dr. McEvoy as follows:
Q. In any of your communications with Mr. Halas, did you
convey any criticisms that you had about the prelaw program
itself under Professor McEvoy's directorship?
A. Probably shared the same that I did with [Dr. Williams],
if we had someone that was more willing to communicate with
donors. And donors give feedback, so you have to be able to
take that feedback. Donors, they have ideas, and if
you're not willing to listen to those ideas, donors get
offended and they don't invest. You at least have to
listen to the ideas. So yes, I definitely would have said
something about that.
Q. The same kind of sentiment that you testified about
earlier that you expressed to Dr. Williams, that you wished
you had a prelaw director that you could take on donor visits
with you, right?
A. Yes, I'm certain of that, yes.
Id. at 19-20. Dr. McEvoy denies Fairfield's
assertion that she had issues with the Advancement Office;
she asserts that she worked closely with members of the
office, particularly with Gerry Derbyshire and Hope Ogletree.
ECF No. 30-1 at ¶¶ 26, 77; ECF No. 30-7 at ¶
108. Mr. Pates testified that Ms. Ogletree
“warned” him “that Professor McEvoy could
be confrontational, and that's why [Ms. Ogletree] was in
the meeting [with Dr. McEvoy], ” even though he
normally attended faculty meetings one-on-one. ECF No. 27-14
at 7. Dr. Williams testified that he was made aware of some
“very specific concerns about the Pre-Law
Program” by Mr. Pates, including that alumni would not
support the Program because it was not addressing
contemporary issues in the study of the law, and that Dr.
McEvoy was combative in response to suggestions about raising
revenue for the Program. ECF No. 27-13 at 31-35. Dr. McEvoy
asserts that at no time was she informed that it was her job
to raise money for the Program. ECF No. 30-1 at ¶ 76.
Dr. Williams testified otherwise:
What I did share with her was that it was important for her
to engage with development, and part of . . . that engagement
facilitated the work of development to raise funds.
That's the same expectation you would communicate to any
director in that role that you've got to work with your
development officers because they're out raising the
curriculum money necessary for programs to provide
opportunities for students. And that, that would have been -
that's what we would have talked about. Did she have a
specific responsibility? As a program director for a program
which was of high interest and where you have significant
alum interest and some alum who were willing to give,
it's the same expectation of anyone. Yeah, you have to
engage and play nice with your development officers.
ECF No. 30-11 at 46.
third stated concern about Dr. McEvoy was her alleged failure
to align the Program with Fairfield 2020, a strategic plan to
take the university through the year 2020. ECF No. 25 at
¶ 36. Dr. Williams testified that Dr. McEvoy's
reports did not include “any real strategic visioning
or any attempt to engage with the priorities that had been
shared, ” ECF No. 27-13 at 44, even though they had
“been asking for . . . her to align the program with
[the Fairfield 2020] strategic plan, ” id. at
45. He elaborated that:
[Dr. McEvoy's reports] felt a little cut-and-pasted from
year to year, formulaic, and there's nothing [in the
2014-2015 report] about strategic direction or university
mission . . . in a year when we spent an entire year talking
about strategic planning. So here was her opportunity to say
[t]his is what the university's articulating in terms of
its strategic plan, here's how I see the Pre-Law Program
positioned to contribute to positioning for the future. There
was none of that. It was just some general observations about
students in the program, and then you look at goals and
potential growth, and it's the same thing. So that's
what I mean by it was disappointing. Superficial.
Id. at 45. He said that “the annual report
itself” was not the problem; rather, it was the
“behavior and the problems that [the report]
highlights.” ECF No. 30-11 at 54. He went on to testify
The kind of backward-looking, traditional, not engaged with
2020, not thinking about strategic visioning, the report
itself is a reflection of [that]. It is not the reason.
It's a reflection of what we were already seeing that
would have made it very problematic for anyone to continue in
that role who held similar views.
Id. Dr. McEvoy asserts that Dr. Williams never
communicated with her about Fairfield 2020. ECF No. 30-1 at
¶ 36; ECF No. 30-7 at ¶ 114. Dr. Williams testified
otherwise. ECF No. 27-13 at 18-19, 24, 45. The letter
appointing Dr. McEvoy to a one-year term as Director of the
Program referenced Fairfield 2020. ECF No. 27-17 at 2
(explaining that, “given the changes associated with
Fairfield 2020, the Provost's office is taking the year
to review all contractual arrangements including those
governing program directors with an eye toward increasing
efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability across the
fourth issue, Fairfield cites Dr. Williams's testimony
that Dr. Sapp had “shared some concerns about the
curricular - the direction of the program where the program
did not seem to be responding to changing avenues for the
preparation of young people into law school particularly
around health care and technology, ” and that
“[i]t seemed kind of frozen around corporate and
criminal law.” ECF No. 25 at ¶ 17; ECF No. 27-13
at 6. He also testified that students told him
“that, you know, it was a more traditional
pathway.” ECF No. 27-13 at 41. Dr. McEvoy asserts that
“the charge that the Pre-Law Advisory Program under
[her] directorship was focused on corporate or criminal law
is completely false.” ECF No. 30-1 at ¶ 42; ECF
No. 30-7 at ¶¶ 62-78. She states that she scheduled
many events that provided students the opportunity to explore
areas of law other than corporate or criminal law and to
speak with practitioners in those other areas of law. ECF No.
30-1 at ¶¶ 61-63; ECF No. 30-7 at ¶¶
67-78. Dr. Williams also expressed concern about another
curricular issue-3/3 programs. These programs permit students
to complete three years at an undergraduate institution and
three years at a law school and have the first law school
year count toward the final year of their undergraduate
degrees. ECF No. 30-11 at 16. Dr. Williams testified that he
spoke to Dr. McEvoy in the summer of 2014 about pursuing 3/3
programs, id. at 20; that “it certainly would
have been something that I would have anticipated would have
been on her radar, ” id. at 26; and that he
believed “she should have been exploring the
opportunities [to enter into 3/3 programs], ”
id. at 28. Dr. McEvoy asserts that Dr. Williams
never notified her that she needed to take action to help
secure 3/3 programs with law schools. ECF No. 30-1 at ¶
78; ECF No. 30-7 at ¶ 110. And Dr. Babington testified
that she did not believe it was Dr. McEvoy's
responsibility to establish 3/3 programs with law schools.
ECF No. 30-10 at 40-41.
Fairfield asserts that Dr. McEvoy did not gather or analyze
data on student grade point averages, LSAT scores, or law
school admissions, and that there was no assessment of
outcomes that could be used to give advice to students. ECF
No. 25 at ¶ 23. In her application for the directorship,
Dr. McEvoy explained that she would take the following action
with respect to data collection:
I would keep records of which students from which majors have
an interest in law school and those who have been successful
in getting admitted: GPAs, LSAT scores and the law school
applied to. I would also keep track of the schools that
Fairfield Students are not accepted to.
ECF No. 27-5 at 2. When Dr. Fitzgerald appointed her to the
directorship, he highlighted the data collection component of
You plan to gather and analyze data on GPA's [sic], LSAT
scores and relative success in gaining admissions to various
law schools in order to assess outcomes and give the best
advice and guidance to students. The Office of Institutional
Research will be able to assist you in setting this up.
ECF No. 27-6 at 2. Dr. McEvoy denies the assertion that she
failed to collect such information; she admits, however, that
she did not include the information in her annual reports or
otherwise share it with Dr. Williams. ...