News, University News

Two professors sue University in response to tenure rejection

Professors claim Paxson rejected tenure based on age, case to be dismissed

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, September 6, 2019

After President Christina Paxson P’19 denied tenure to 67-year-old Rachel Rojanski, senior lecturer in Judaic Studies and adjunct professor in History, Rojanski and her husband filed a lawsuit against Paxson and the University for age discrimination and other complaints in April 2019.

The 2017 rejection opposed the recommendation of both the Tenure, Promotions and Appointments Committee and Provost Richard Locke P’18. Both parties have agreed to an amicable resolution and the case will be dismissed in the next few weeks, Director of News and Editorial Development Brian Clark wrote in an email to The Herald. Rojanski, her husband and their legal representative did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In 2010, the University hired Rojanski’s husband, Professor of History and Judaic Studies Adam Teller, as an associate professor with tenure. Previously, he and Rojanski were associate professors at the University of Haifa in Israel. The University allegedly promised Rojanski a job as a visiting professor for three years, after which she would be put up for tenure, the plaintiffs claim in the suit. They allege that in 2017, when Teller was under consideration for a prestigious professorship in Jerusalem, a dean promised Teller that Rojanski would be promoted to a tenured position in the Judaic Studies department in exchange for his “promise to remove himself from consideration” for employment by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The University denied these claims in their response to the suit.

Plaintiffs Rojanski and Teller claim that Rojanski’s rejection was the first instance in 15 years that a Brown president has denied a tenure candidate after they were approved for tenure in every step of the University’s review process, according to the complaint.

In this process, the candidate assembles a dossier of their accomplishments in teaching, scholarly work and service to the University, according to the Faculty Rules and Regulations. Based on that dossier and recommendation letters from leading outside scholars, the candidate’s department votes on whether to recommend the candidate to TPAC, a committee composed of 12 tenured professors at the University. TPAC then reviews the candidate’s dossier and votes on whether to submit the candidate to the Provost, the President and ultimately the Corporation for approval.

Plaintiffs Rojanski and Teller alleged that Paxson “refused to grant Professor Rojanski tenure because she is 67 years old,” which they claimed is a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The plaintiffs also alleged that under Paxson’s leadership, the University has “publicly expressed a preference for younger faculty and expressed displeasure at the aging of Brown’s faculty.”

When the University blocked Rojanski’s tenure, she claims it did “irreparable damage” to her academic career, according to the suit. The plaintiffs claim the University is liable for these damages.