Browzin v. Catholic University of America

527 F.2d 843 (1975)

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Browzin v. Catholic University of America

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
527 F.2d 843 (1975)

Facts

Boris Browzin (plaintiff) was a tenured professor in the School of Engineering and Architecture at Catholic University (defendant), a private university. In 1969, in the face of financial hardship, Catholic University implemented a plan to reorganize, which included laying off several tenured faculty members. Two of Browzin’s courses, Soil Mechanics and Hydrology, were identified as nonessential based on Catholic University’s new goals and budgetary limitations. Browzin was terminated, and his courses were cut from the curriculum. In written correspondence, the dean noted that Browzin’s termination was motivated by financial considerations. Catholic University undertook a detailed review of programs and open positions before terminating Browzin. The only other course Browzin could teach was already being taught by another professor. Browzin sued, alleging breach of contract. Browzin conceded that Catholic University was in the midst of a financial exigency, but he argued that his contract was violated nevertheless. It was agreed that regulations adopted by the American Association of University Professors (the AAUP regulations) were incorporated into Browzin’s contract and should govern the case. One section of the AAUP regulations required a university to make every effort to find another suitable position for a faculty member before terminating him or her because of the abandonment of a program or department. A preceding portion of this section addressed terminations motivated by financial exigency and noted that, in such a case, the faculty member concerned should be given notice as soon as possible and severance pay. It did not explicitly mention the suitable-position requirement. A trial court granted Catholic University’s motion to dismiss, finding that the AAUP regulations did not obligate Catholic University to make an effort to find a new position for Browzin, given that the termination was motivated by a financial exigency. In doing so, the court interpreted the AAUP regulations as making a distinction between terminations motivated by financial exigency and those occurring because a department or program was being cut. On appeal, Browzin argued that the trial court erred in its interpretation of the AAUP regulations.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Skelly Wright, J.)

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