MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.
Respondent, a student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Medical School, was dismissed by petitioner officials of the school during her final year of study for failure to meet academic standards. Respondent sued petitioners under 42
Respondent was admitted with advanced standing to the Medical School in the fall of 1971. During the final years of a student's education at the school, the student is required to pursue in "rotational units" academic and clinical studies pertaining to various medical disciplines such as obstetrics-gynecology, pediatrics, and surgery. Each student's academic performance at the School is evaluated on a periodic basis by the Council on Evaluation, a body composed of both faculty and students, which can recommend various actions including probation and dismissal. The recommendations of the Council are reviewed by the Coordinating Committee, a body composed solely of faculty members, and must ultimately be approved by the Dean. Students are not typically allowed to appear before either the Council or the Coordinating Committee on the occasion of their review of the student's academic performance.
In the spring of respondent's first year of study, several faculty members expressed dissatisfaction with her clinical
Faculty dissatisfaction with respondent's clinical performance continued during the following year. For example, respondent's docent, or faculty adviser, rated her clinical skills as "unsatisfactory." In the middle of the year, the Council again reviewed respondent's academic progress and concluded that respondent should not be considered for graduation in June of that year; furthermore, the Council recommended that, absent "radical improvement," respondent be dropped from the school.
Respondent was permitted to take a set of oral and practical examinations as an "appeal" of the decision not to permit her to graduate. Pursuant to this "appeal," respondent spent a substantial portion of time with seven practicing physicians in the area who enjoyed a good reputation among their peers. The physicians were asked to recommend whether respondent should be allowed to graduate on schedule and, if not, whether she should be dropped immediately or allowed to remain on probation. Only two of the doctors recommended that respondent be graduated on schedule. Of the other five, two recommended that she be immediately dropped from the school. The remaining three recommended that she not be allowed to graduate in June and be continued on probation pending further reports on her clinical progress. Upon receipt of these recommendations, the Council on Evaluation reaffirmed its prior position.
The Council met again in mid-May to consider whether respondent should be allowed to remain in school beyond June
To be entitled to the procedural protections of the Fourteenth Amendment, respondent must in a case such as this demonstrate that her dismissal from the school deprived her of either a "liberty" or a "property" interest. Respondent has never alleged that she was deprived of a property interest. Because property interests are creatures of state law, Perry v. Sindermann, 408 U.S. 593, 599-603 (1972), respondent would have been required to show at trial that her seat at the Medical School was a "property" interest recognized by Missouri state law. Instead, respondent argued that her dismissal deprived her of "liberty" by substantially impairing her opportunities to continue her medical education or to return to employment in a medically related field.
The Court of Appeals agreed, citing this Court's opinion in Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564 (1972).
We have recently had an opportunity to elaborate upon the circumstances under which an employment termination might infringe a protected liberty interest. In Bishop v. Wood, 426 U.S. 341 (1976), we upheld the dismissal of a policeman without a hearing; we rejected the theory that the mere fact of dismissal, absent some publicizing of the reasons for the action, could amount to a stigma infringing one's liberty:
The opinion of the Court of Appeals, decided only five weeks after we issued our opinion in Bishop, does not discuss whether a state university infringes a liberty interest when it dismisses a student without publicizing allegations harmful to the student's reputation. Three judges of the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit dissented from the denial of rehearing en banc on the ground that "the reasons for Horowitz's dismissal were not released to the public but were communicated to her directly by school officials." Citing Bishop, the judges concluded that "[a]bsent such public disclosure, there is no deprivation of a liberty interest." 542 F. 2d, at 1335. Petitioners urge us to adopt the view of these judges and hold that respondent has not been deprived of a liberty interest.
We need not decide, however, whether respondent's dismissal deprived her of a liberty interest in pursuing a medical career. Nor need we decide whether respondent's dismissal infringed any other interest constitutionally protected against deprivation without procedural due process. Assuming the
In Goss v. Lopez, 419 U.S. 565 (1975), we held that due process requires, in connection with the suspension of a student from public school for disciplinary reasons, "that the student be given oral or written notice of the charges against him and, if he denies them, an explanation of the evidence the authorities have and an opportunity to present his side of the story." Id., at 581. The Court of Appeals apparently read Goss as requiring some type of formal hearing at which respondent could defend her academic ability and performance.
A similar conclusion has been reached by the other state courts to consider the issue. See, e. g., Mustell v. Rose, 282 Ala. 358, 367, 211 So.2d 489, 498, cert. denied, 393 U.S. 936 (1968); cf. Foley v. Benedict, 122 Tex. 193, 55 S.W.2d 805 (1932). Indeed, until the instant decision by the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, the Courts of Appeals were also unanimous in concluding that dismissals for academic (as opposed to disciplinary) cause do not necessitate a hearing before the school's decisionmaking body. See Mahavongsanan v. Hall, 529 F.2d 448 (CA5 1976);
Reason, furthermore, clearly supports the perception of these decisions. A school is an academic institution, not a courtroom or administrative hearing room. In Goss, this Court felt that suspensions of students for disciplinary reasons have a sufficient resemblance to traditional judicial and administrative
Even in the context of a school disciplinary proceeding, however, the Court stopped short of requiring a formal hearing since "further formalizing the suspension process and escalating its formality and adversary nature may not only make it too costly as a regular disciplinary tool but also destroy its effectiveness as a part of the teaching process." Id., at 583.
Academic evaluations of a student, in contrast to disciplinary determinations, bear little resemblance to the judicial and administrative factfinding proceedings to which we have traditionally attached a full-hearing requirement. In Goss, the school's decision to suspend the students rested on factual conclusions that the individual students had participated in demonstrations that had disrupted classes, attacked a police officer, or caused physical damage to school property. The requirement of a hearing, where the student could present his side of the factual issue, could under such circumstances "provide a meaningful hedge against erroneous action." Ibid. The decision to dismiss respondent, by comparison, rested on the academic judgment of school officials that she did not have
Under such circumstances, we decline to ignore the historic judgment of educators and thereby formalize the academic dismissal process by requiring a hearing. The educational process is not by nature adversary; instead it centers around a continuing relationship between faculty and students, "one in which the teacher must occupy many roles—educator, adviser, friend, and, at times, parent-substitute." Goss v. Lopez, 419 U. S., at 594 (POWELL, J., dissenting). This is especially true as one advances through the varying regimes of the educational system, and the instruction becomes both more individualized and more specialized. In Goss, this Court concluded that the value of some form of hearing in a disciplinary context outweighs any resulting harm to the academic environment. Influencing this conclusion was clearly the belief that disciplinary proceedings, in which the teacher must decide whether to punish a student for disruptive or insubordinate behavior, may automatically bring an adversary flavor to the normal student-teacher relationship. The same conclusion does not follow in the academic context. We decline to further enlarge the judicial presence in the academic community and thereby risk deterioration of many beneficial aspects of the faculty-student relationship. We recognize, as did the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court over 60 years ago, that a hearing may be "useless or harmful in finding out the truth as to scholarship." Barnard v. Inhabitants of Shelburne, 216 Mass., at 23, 102 N. E., at 1097.
In reversing the District Court on procedural due process grounds, the Court of Appeals expressly failed to "reach the substantive due process ground advanced by Horowitz." 538 F. 2d, at 1321 n. 5. Respondent urges that we remand the cause to the Court of Appeals for consideration of this additional claim. In this regard, a number of lower courts have implied in dictum that academic dismissals from state institutions can be enjoined if "shown to be clearly arbitrary or capricious." Mahavongsanan v. Hall, 529 F. 2d, at 449. See Gaspar v. Bruton, 513 F. 2d, at 850, and citations therein. Even assuming that the courts can review under such a standard an academic decision of a public educational
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is therefore
MR. JUSTICE POWELL, concurring.
I join the Court's opinion because I read it as upholding the District Court's view that respondent was dismissed for academic deficiencies rather than for unsatisfactory personal
In the numerous meetings and discussions respondent had with her teachers and advisers, see opinion of MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, post, at 98-99, culminating in the special clinical examination administered by seven physicians,
MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL nevertheless states that respondent's dismissal was based "largely" on "her conduct":
This conclusion is explicitly contrary to the District Court's undisturbed findings of fact. In one sense, the term "conduct" could be used to embrace a poor academic performance as well as unsatisfactory personal conduct. But I do not understand MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL to use the term in that undifferentiated sense.
The findings of the District Court conclusively show that respondent was dismissed for failure to meet the academic standards of the Medical School. The court, after reviewing the evidence in some detail, concluded:
It is well to bear in mind that respondent was attending a medical school where competence in clinical courses is as much of a prerequisite to graduation as satisfactory grades in other courses. Respondent was dismissed because she was as deficient in her clinical work as she was proficient in the "book-learning" portion of the curriculum.
MR. JUSTICE WHITE, concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.
I join Parts I, II-A, and III of the Court's opinion and concur in the judgment.
I agree with my Brother BLACKMUN that it is unnecessary to decide whether respondent had a constitutionally protected property or liberty interest or precisely what minimum procedures were required to divest her of that interest if it is assumed she had one. Whatever that minimum is, the procedures accorded her satisfied or exceeded that minimum.
The Court nevertheless assumes the existence of a protected interest, proceeds to classify respondent's expulsion as an "academic dismissal," and concludes that no hearing of any kind or any opportunity to respond is required in connection with such an action. Because I disagree with this conclusion,
As I see it, assuming a protected interest, respondent was at the minimum entitled to be informed of the reasons for her dismissal and to an opportunity personally to state her side of the story. Of course, she had all this, and more. I also suspect that expelled graduate or college students normally have the opportunity to talk with their expellers and that this sort of minimum requirement will impose no burden that is not already being shouldered and discharged by responsible institutions.
MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, concurring in part and dissenting in part.
I agree with the Court that, "[a]ssuming the existence of a liberty or property interest, respondent has been awarded at least as much due process as the Fourteenth Amendment requires." Ante, at 84-85. I cannot join the Court's opinion, however, because it contains dictum suggesting that respondent was entitled to even less procedural protection than she received. I also differ from the Court in its assumption that characterization of the reasons for a dismissal as "academic" or "disciplinary" is relevant to resolution of the question of what procedures are required by the Due Process Clause. Finally, I disagree with the Court's decision not to remand to the Court of Appeals for consideration of respondent's substantive due process claim.
We held in Goss v. Lopez, 419 U.S. 565 (1975), that
According to the stipulation of facts filed in the District Court, respondent had a "discussion" with the Dean of the Medical School in mid-1972, at the close of her first year in school, during which she was notified of her unsatisfactory performance.
In January 1973, there was still another meeting between respondent and the Dean, who was accompanied by respondent's docent and the chairman of the Council on Evaluation. Respondent was there notified of the Council's recommendation that she not graduate and that she be dropped from school unless there was "radical improvement" in her "clinical competence, peer and patient relations, personal hygiene, and ability to accept criticism."
These meetings and letters plainly gave respondent all that Goss requires: several notices and explanations, and at least three opportunities "to present [her] side of the story." 419 U. S., at 581. I do not read the Court's opinion to disagree with this conclusion. Hence I do not understand why the Court indicates that even the "informal give-and-take" mandated by Goss, id., at 584, need not have been provided here. See ante, at 85-86, 89-91. This case simply provides no legitimate opportunity to consider whether "far less stringent procedural requirements," ante, at 86, than those required in Goss are appropriate in other school contexts. While I disagree with the Court's conclusion that "far less" is adequate, as discussed infra, it is equally disturbing that the Court decides an issue not presented by the case before us. As Mr. Justice Brandeis warned over 40 years ago, the "`great gravity and delicacy'" of our task in constitutional cases should cause us to "`shrink'" from "`anticipat[ing] a question of constitutional law in advance of the necessity of deciding it,'" and from "`formulat[ing] a rule of constitutional law broader than is required by the precise facts to which it is to be applied.'" Ashwander v. TVA, 297 U.S. 288, 345-347 (1936) (concurring opinion).
In view of the Court's dictum to the effect that even the minimum procedures required in Goss need not have been provided to respondent, I feel compelled to comment on the extent of procedural protection mandated here. I do so within a framework largely ignored by the Court, a framework derived from our traditional approach to these problems. According to our prior decisions, as summarized in Mathews v.
As the Court recognizes, the "private interest" involved here is a weighty one: "the deprivation to which respondent was subjected—dismissal from a graduate medical school— was more severe than the 10-day suspension to which the high school students were subjected in Goss." Ante, at 86 n. 3. One example of the loss suffered by respondent is contained in the stipulation of facts: Respondent had a job offer from the psychiatry department of another university to begin work in September 1973; the offer was contingent on her receiving the M. D. degree.
As Judge Friendly has written in a related context, when the State seeks "to deprive a person of a way of life to which [s]he has devoted years of preparation and on which [s]he . . . ha[s] come to rely," it should be required first to provide a "high level of procedural protection."
Nor can it be said that the university had any greater interest in summary proceedings here than did the school in Goss. Certainly the allegedly disruptive and disobedient students involved there, see id., at 569-571, posed more of an immediate threat to orderly school administration than did respondent. As we noted in Goss, moreover, "it disserves . . . the interest of the State if [the student's] suspension is in fact unwarranted." Id., at 579.
The contours of the additional procedural protection to which respondent was entitled need not be defined in terms of the traditional adversary system so familiar to lawyers and
In the instant factual context the "appeal" provided to respondent, see ante, at 81, served the same purposes as, and in some respects may have been better than, a formal hearing. In establishing the procedure under which respondent was evaluated separately by seven physicians who had had little or no previous contact with her, it appears that the Medical School placed emphasis on obtaining "a fair and neutral and impartial assessment."
The analysis in Parts I and II of this opinion illustrates that resolution of this case under our traditional approach does not turn on whether the dismissal of respondent is characterized as one for "academic" or "disciplinary" reasons. In my view, the effort to apply such labels does little to advance the due process inquiry, as is indicated by examination of the facts of this case.
The minutes of the meeting at which it was first decided that respondent should not graduate contain the following:
By the customary measures of academic progress, moreover, no deficiency was apparent at the time that the authorities decided respondent could not graduate; prior to this time, according to the stipulation of facts, respondent had received
It may nevertheless be true, as the Court implies, ante, at 91 n. 6, that the school decided that respondent's inadequacies in such areas as personal hygiene, peer and patient relations, and timeliness would impair her ability to be "a good medical doctor." Whether these inadequacies can be termed "purely academic reasons," as the Court calls them, ibid., is ultimately an irrelevant question, and one placing an undue emphasis on words rather than functional considerations. The relevant point is that respondent was dismissed largely because of her conduct,
In such cases a talismanic reliance on labels should not be a substitute for sensitive consideration of the procedures required by due process.
While I agree with the Court that respondent received adequate procedural due process, I cannot join the Court's judgment because it is based on resolution of an issue never reached by the Court of Appeals. That court, taking a properly limited view of its role in constitutional cases, refused to offer dictum on respondent's substantive due process claim when it decided the case on procedural due process grounds. See 538 F. 2d, at 1321 n. 5, quoted ante, at 91. Petitioners therefore presented to us only questions relating to the procedural issue. Pet. for Cert. 2. Our normal course in such a case is to reverse on the questions decided below and presented in the petition, and then to remand to the Court of Appeals for consideration of any remaining issues.
Rather than taking this course, the Court here decides on its own that the record will not support a substantive due process claim, thereby "agree[ing]" with the District Court. Ante, at 92. I would allow the Court of Appeals to provide the first level of appellate review on this question. Not only would a remand give us the benefit of the lower court's thoughts,
I would reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand for further proceedings.
MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN, with whom MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN joins, concurring in part and dissenting in part.
The Court's opinion, and that of MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, together demonstrate conclusively that, assuming the existence of a liberty or property interest, respondent received all the procedural process that was due her under the Fourteenth
I find it unnecessary, therefore, to indulge in the arguments and counterarguments contained in the two opinions as to the extent or type of procedural protection that the Fourteenth Amendment requires in the graduate-school-dismissal situation. Similarly, I also find it unnecessary to choose between the arguments as to whether respondent's dismissal was for academic or disciplinary reasons (or, indeed, whether such a distinction is relevant). I do agree with MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, however, that we should leave to the District Court and to the Court of Appeals in the first instance the resolution of respondent's substantive due process claim and of any other claim presented to, but not decided by, those courts.
Accordingly, I, too, would reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand the case for further proceedings.
"Considering all of the evidence presented, the Court finds that the grading and evaluating system of the medical school was applied fairly and reasonably to plaintiff, but plaintiff did not satisfy the requirements of the medical school to graduate from the medical school in June 1973." App. 45.
"He [Dr. Sirridge] emphasized that plaintiff's [respondent's] problem was that she thought she could learn to be a medical doctor by reading books, and he advised her [that] the clinical skills were equally as important for obtaining the M. D. degree. He further testified that plaintiff cannot perform many of the necessary basic skills required of a practicing physician . . . ." Id., at 35.
"represent[ed] . . . a valued human interaction in which the affected person experience[d] at least the satisfaction of participating in the decision that vitally concern[ed] her . . . . [T]hese rights to interchange express the elementary idea that to be a person, rather than a thing, is at least to be consulted about what is done with one." L. Tribe, American Constitutional Law § 10-7, p. 503 (1978) (emphasis in original).
The District Court's statement that respondent was dismissed because of "`the quality of her work,'" quoted ante, at 95, like statements to the effect that the dismissal was "solely on academic grounds," ante, at 96, is ultimately irrelevant to the due process inquiry. It provides no information on the critical question whether "the facts disputed are of a type susceptible of determination by third parties." Infra, at 106. Nor does the District Court's finding that "`the grading and evaluating system of the medical school was applied fairly,'" quoted ante, at 95 n. 3, advance resolution of this case, especially in view of the fact, noted supra, that respondent's grades in clinical courses, as in all other courses, were satisfactory when the decision was made that she could not graduate. This fact further indicates, contrary to MR. JUSTICE POWELL's intimation, ante, at 95, that the school found the deficiencies in respondent's clinical performance to be different from the deficiencies that lead to unsatisfactory grades in more traditional scholastic subjects.
MR. JUSTICE POWELL is correct, of course, in suggesting that the kind of conduct here involved is different from that involved in Goss v. Lopez, supra. Ante, at 94, and n. 2. The question facing the Medical School authorities was not solely whether respondent had misbehaved in the past, but rather whether her past, present, and likely future conduct indicated that she would not be "a good medical doctor," ante, at 91 n. 6. The appeal procedure of the school was well suited to aid in resolution of this question, since it involved "observation of her skills and techniques in actual conditions of practice," ante, at 95. It matters not at all whether the result of such observation is labeled "an `academic' judgment," ibid., so long as it is recognized that the school authorities, having an efficient procedure available to determine whether their decision to dismiss respondent was "unfair or mistaken," Goss v. Lopez, supra, at 581, were constitutionally required to give respondent a chance to invoke the procedure, as they did, before depriving her of a substantial liberty or property interest. See supra, at 100-102.
"This case is not the traditional disciplinary situation where a student violates the law or a school regulation by actively engaging in prohibited activities. Plaintiff has allegedly failed to act and comply with school regulations for admission and class attendance by passively ignoring these regulations. These alleged failures do not constitute misconduct in the sense that plaintiff is subject to disciplinary procedures. They do constitute misconduct in the sense that plaintiff was required to do something. Plaintiff contends that he did comply with the requirements. Like the traditional disciplinary case, the determination of whether plaintiff did or did not comply with the school regulations is a question of fact. Most importantly, in determining this factual question, reference is not made to a standard of achievement in an esoteric academic field. Scholastic standards are not involved, but rather disputed facts concerning whether plaintiff did or did not comply with certain school regulations. These issues adapt themselves readily to determination by a fair and impartial `due process' hearing."
Review by the Court of Appeals would clarify these factual issues, which rarely warrant the expenditure of this Court's time. If the Court's view of the record is correct, however, then I do not understand why the Court goes on to comment on the legal consequences of a state of facts that the Court has just said does not exist. Like other aspects of the Court's opinion, discussed supra, the legal comments on this issue are nothing more than confusing dictum. It is true, as the Court notes, ante, at 92 n. 8, that the decision from this Court cited by respondent was not expressly grounded in the Due Process Clause. Service v. Dulles, 354 U.S. 363 (1957). But that fact, which amounts to the only legal analysis offered by the Court on this question, hardly answers respondent's point that some compliance with previously established rules—particularly rules providing procedural safeguards—is constitutionally required before the State or one of its agencies may deprive a citizen of a valuable liberty or property interest.