LEVIN H. CAMPBELL, Circuit Judge.
This case is before us for the second time. Our affirmance of the district court's decision that Sweeney's promotion to Professor of Education at Keene State College was delayed because of her sex, Sweeney v. Board of Trustees of Keene State College, 569 F.2d 169 (1st Cir., 1978), was vacated and remanded by the Supreme Court "for reconsideration in the light of Furnco [Construction Corp. v. Waters, 438 U.S. 567, 98 S.Ct. 2943, 57 L.Ed.2d 957 (1978)]." 439 U.S. 24, 25, 99 S.Ct. 295, 296, 58 L.Ed.2d 216 (1978). We in turn remanded to the district court, which again found in Sweeney's favor. No. 75-182 (D.N.H. Jan. 29, 1979). Keene State College once again appeals.
From the beginning, Sweeney has sought to prove her claim of sex discrimination by the methodology in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973). Under that case, an individual Title VII plaintiff may proceed by first establishing a "prima facie case" of discrimination; this then requires the defendant to "articulate" a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its adverse action regarding the plaintiff. To prevail, the plaintiff ultimately must prove that the reason given is a pretext for discrimination. See 411 U.S. at 802-05, 93 S.Ct. 1817. Since the Supreme Court vacated our first Sweeney decision, we have taken pains to point out that, under McDonnell Douglas, the defendant's burden is merely a burden of production, and that the burden of persuasion remains at all times with the plaintiff. Loeb v. Textron, 600 F.2d 1003 at 1011-1012 (1979).
The error that prompted the Supreme Court to vacate our original decision occurred in our discussion of defendants' obligation to "articulate" a legitimate reason for Sweeney's non-promotion once plaintiff had established a prima facie case. We stated erroneously that defendants were required "to prove absence of discriminatory motive." 569 F.2d at 177. In remanding the case to us, the Supreme Court reemphasized the actual language and rule of McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802, 93 S.Ct. 1817, and Furnco, 438 U.S. at 578, 98 S.Ct. 2943, that a Title VII defendant need only "articulate" a valid reason, and indicated that defendants surely had done so. See 439 U.S. at 25 n.2, 99 S.Ct. 295. The Court was concerned that we had "imposed a heavier burden on the employer than Furnco warrants." at 25, 99 S.Ct. at 295-296.
On further remand from us, the district court manifested its understanding that defendants had met their limited burden of articulating facially valid reasons for not promoting Sweeney, and concentrated upon the ultimate question: whether Sweeney had proven by a preponderance that the reasons stated were pretexts for discrimination. The court concluded that Sweeney had met her burden in this regard:
See Fisher v. Flynn, 598 F.2d 663, 665 (1st Cir. 1979) (Title VII plaintiff must meet "but for" standard of proof); cf. Loeb, 600 F.2d at 1019-1020 (same rule in ADEA cases).
The issue now before us is whether the district court's decision in favor of Sweeney is clearly erroneous.
Sweeney initiated the promotion procedure in the fall of 1974; in November Dr. St. John, then Chair of the Education Department, wrote to Dean Davis that Sweeney wished to be considered for full professor and had the support of the department's Advisory Committee on Promotions, although he personally had mixed feelings about her case.
In November 1975, however, after the Faculty Appeals Committee (FAC) had urged that Sweeney be given more specific reasons for the adverse decision, see 569 F.2d at 173, President Redfern conferred with Dean Davis and with former FEAC members and then met with Sweeney. The evidence shows that he told Sweeney that the reasons were largely personal ones: that the FEAC members thought that she "personalized professional matters," was rigid, narrow-minded, and inflexible, intolerant of students' views and "old fashioned" in her supervision of student teaching. Her alleged concern with the height of window shades was cited as an example. Redfern also said that her minutes of the graduate faculty meetings were thought not to be of professional caliber, and that she did not show a "give and take" spirit on committees. These reasons were brought out at trial, where they were supplemented by the testimony of Dr. Quirk, who was Chairman of the 1974-75 FEAC.
Dr. Quirk testified that Sweeney's case for promotion was "weak" and "mediocre . . . at best." The 1974-75 FEAC, which consisted of five men, considered five candidates for promotion to full professorships — three men and two women. Only two were recommended: one man, James Smart (vote 3-2), and one woman, Janet Grayson (vote 5-0). The vote against Sweeney was five to zero. According to Quirk, the reasons for the vote were "varied."
Defense counsel on direct examination brought out that Sweeney had served on no campus-wide committees except the College Senate, to which she was elected by her department rather than on a campus-wide basis. Quirk also testified that he had served with Sweeney on the Admissions and Standards Committee in 1974-75 and that their relationship had been marked by "some disagreements" over reviewing students' applications to the Education Department for professional education. Quirk felt that Sweeney's advocacy of a "subjective interview" as a requirement for admission, allegedly without any criteria, and her statement, in response to his question, that convicts had "no place in front of the classroom" were examples of her "lack of maturity."
The reasons given for the 1974-75 denial of Sweeney's promotion thus were, in essence, that Sweeney had a tendency to be
Sweeney applied for promotion again to the 1975-76 FEAC and was successful. In the interim she had filed charges of sex discrimination, and at trial she expressed the view that the 1975-76 promotion was in response to that action, as "[e]verything else remained constant." Defendants emphasize, however, that in September 1975 Sweeney was made Director of the Education Department's reading program and that, in her November 1975 meeting with Redfern concerning the 1974-75 denial, Redfern said that her performance in that program might lead to her promotion. Defendants' position is that Sweeney had much stronger departmental support in 1975-76 than in 1974-75, in part because of her work in the reading program.
Defendants now contend, in essence, that Sweeney did not introduce evidence sufficient to prove that these reasons — which on their face are legitimate and nondiscriminatory — were pretexts for discrimination. Reminding us of the Supreme Court's admonition in Furnco, that proof of a prima facie case is not equivalent to a factual finding of discrimination, 438 U.S. at 576, 579, 98 S.Ct. 2943, defendants argue that Sweeney did no more than present a "generalized inference of discrimination," through statistics showing an imbalance of male faculty and the like, and that she failed to disprove specifically the reasons given for her non-promotion during 1974-75. While the case is close, we disagree: the record contains evidence sufficient to support a finding that the reasons advanced were not the real reasons for Sweeney's non-promotion in the year in question.
Contrary to the reasons that allegedly prompted the 1974-75 FEAC not to recommend her, Sweeney introduced significant evidence that she had worked well with a variety of people in a variety of roles and contexts, and that her personality did not impede her effectiveness as a teacher or as a member of the faculty. The College itself had granted her tenure in 1972, indicating that whatever attitudinal problems Sweeney had
There also was testimony that Sweeney was at least as qualified as others who had been promoted to full professorship, and testimony as to a general perception of sex bias at Keene State. Various witnesses compared Sweeney's qualifications to those of other members of the faculty, both male and female, and indicated that, although she was not one of Keene State's "superstars," she did rank among the better members of the faculty.
The documentary evidence shows that when, in the next year, the 1975-76 FEAC recommended Sweeney for promotion, it did not, as defendants would have it, give special weight to her contributions to the reading program. Both Alfred Thomas, Chair of the Education Department that year, and FEAC mentioned this contribution as only one of many reasons for promotion; her personal attributes and qualifications in 1975-76 seem little different from those in 1974-75.
Defendants argue that Sweeney did no more than show that differences of opinion existed between members of the faculty at Keene and that she did not show that the 1974-75 FEAC acted out of sex bias. We fully agree that the issue is not whether Sweeney was qualified for promotion or should have been promoted in 1974-75 by some objective measure, but whether she was denied a promotion because of her sex. Loeb, 600 F.2d at 1014. The recommendation of the 1974-75 FEAC is entitled to stand even if it appears to have been misguided, unless it was sex biased. Loeb, 600 F.2d at 1012 n.6, 1014.
While Keene State's faculty members were entitled to hold different opinions as to Sweeney's qualifications, the evidence and testimony just reviewed suggests that more than just differences of opinion were involved. The defendants' alleged reasons border on describing Sweeney as, to quote plaintiff's brief, a "school marm." The focus on her alleged attention to the height of window shades in particular seems a trivial comment. In light of the evidence that Sweeney's personality was not as described by Redfern and did not interfere with her ability to work on committees or with people, the district court could have concluded that the five male members of FEAC would not have fastened upon such reasons had Sweeney been a man.
The nature of the reasons given, and the evidence introduced to show that they were either insubstantial or fictitious, stood with more general evidence suggesting that women at Keene State were evaluated by a
Defendants emphasize that the promotion system at Keene relies on peer group support, and that Sweeney lacked the support of Dr. St. John, the Education Department Chairman,
Defendants have persuaded us that this was a close case, but not that the district court committed clear error in concluding that Sweeney was denied a promotion because of her sex.
The judgment of the district court is affirmed.
Aside from the reference to the Right to Read grant, substantially the same statement could have been made of Sweeney in 1974-75.
Defendants state repeatedly in their brief that the Education Department "did not consider" Sweeney in 1974-75, that Sweeney "did not have the positive support in 1974-75 of her department," and that in 1975-76, when she finally had the support of her department, department chairman and FEAC, she was promoted. We find this line of argument misleading. The record shows that applicants for promotion were considered by their department evaluation committees, which in turn made recommendations to the department chairmen, who forwarded the applications to FEAC. In both 1974-75, by Dr. St. John's own admission, and in 1975-76, Sweeney had the support of her department's evaluation committee. The significant difference was that the 1974-75 department chairman did not endorse the committee's recommendation, whereas the 1975-76 chairman did. The district court could have concluded that St. John undermined the committee's recommendation and, on the basis of the evidence reviewed herein, that his criticism of Sweeney was determined by a subtle, if unexpressed, bias against women faculty.