Tuesday, May 30, 2017
The complaint is here. Fletcher has apparently enjoyed an arrangement in which he teaches his 10 credits in the fall and then spends the Spring in Israel. His new Dean, Gillian Lester, and the Associate Dean, Avery Katz--both defendants in the suit--had concerns about student enrollments and evaluations of some of his classes. Fletcher claims they want him to retire, and so are trying to disrupt his cozy teaching arrangement, or something like that. This ranking of mine makes a surprising implicit appearance in paragraph 29 of the complaint:
[Dean Gillian] Lester further stated in her communication [to Professsor Fletcher] in January of 2016 that the Law School would "like to go back to offering just two sections of Introduction to American Law, taught by the other instructors." The other instructors referenced by Lester are less qualified than Fletcher: for instance, they are not members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, to which Fletcher was elected in 2004. Membership in the Academy is a primary measurement of prestige in law school circles, and is used in determining law school rankings. Upon information and belief, the other two professors are ten (10) or more years younger than Fletcher.
The argument here is obviously absurd: no one is elected to the AAAS because of their teaching ability, but because of their scholarly accomplishments--often ones from long ago. Moreover, faculty are typically elected later in their career, as Fletcher was--of course most of his younger colleagues are not elected to the American Academy!
Be that as it may, I'm not sure the complaint pleads enough facts to suggest that age discrimination was at work here, but we will find out soon enough, as Columbia has moved, predictably, to dismiss.
ADDENDUM: The complaint mentions that Fletcher taught at UCLA from 1969 until 1983, when he moved to Columbia. For reasons unknown, it omits that his first teaching job was at the University of Florida (1965-66), and then the University of Washington (1966-1969), where he was, bizarrely, denied tenure, a decision that did not redound to the credit of the UW law school.
UPDATE: Reader Eric Chiappinelli kindly passed along a copy of Columbia's motion to dismiss: Download 2017.05.23 Fletcher v. Columbia MOTION TO DISMISS. I expect the case will be dismissed.