Discrimination claim against Wayne State raises novel issues on appeal
Chathapuram Ramanathan sued Wayne State eleven years ago, alleging race dicrimination, retaliation for filing a civil rights claim, and wrongful denial of tenure. The case has seen more ups and downs than an elevator. This week, after several visits to appellate courts, the Court of Appeals unanimously reinstated the case after it had been dismissed by the lower court. In a long ruling, the Court was forced to address several new arguments. First, it concluded that the previous Supreme Court decision in the case was binding and that Wayne could not argue, as it did, "the facts do not remain materially the same." Wayne was bound by the facts as it presented them to the appellate courts and sought relief earlier.
Next, the Court was forced to consider whether the denial of tenure was tainted by the alleged racial animus of the Plaintiff's Dean, given that it was the Provost who actually made the call. The Court concluded, in reliance on a prior decision of Justice Young, that the Plaintiff could prove his claim by establishing a "predisposition to disciminate." That is, by proving that the decision was influenced by a person that plaintiff alleges operated with racial animus.
Last, the Court rejected Wayne's claim that its decisions were protected by academic freedom. The Court noted that the language of the Civil Rights Act does not exempt academic institutions from its operation. Academic freedom and respect for civil rights are not mutually exclusive.