Willens v. University of Massachusetts

570 F.2d 403 (1978)

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Willens v. University of Massachusetts

United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
570 F.2d 403 (1978)

Facts

Lilian Willens (plaintiff) was an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) (defendant). Willens was hired in 1967 and received a letter of hire, which indicated that her tenure-decision year would be 1970-1971. In 1970 Willens signed a letter of reappointment, which indicated that her tenure-decision year would be 1972-1973. Willens was denied tenure because of her lack of scholarly work. Willens did not dispute UMass’s claim that her scholarly work was lacking, nor did UMass publicize this claim. After being denied tenure, Willens filed suit against UMass, alleging that she had been denied both a liberty interest and property interest in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court awarded summary judgment to UMass, finding that Willens had no such interest in continued employment. The district court also rejected Willens’s argument that UMass deprived her of a liberty interest by labeling her as unscholarly. Willens also brought a breach-of-contract claim, predicated on the theory that UMass had a system of de facto tenure. At trial, there was testimony establishing that UMass did not have a de facto system of tenure. Willens appealed, even though she did not challenge this testimony or the reasons behind UMass’s decision to deny her tenure.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Bownes, J.)

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