Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Khan v. Delaware State University

Superior Court of Delaware

February 28, 2017

Al-Sameen T. Khan, Ph.D.
v.
Delaware State University

          Gary W. Aber, Esquire Gary W. Aber, P.A.

          James D. Taylor, Jr., Esquire Gerard M. Clodomir, Esquire Saul Ewing LLP.

         Dear Counsel:

         This dispute, scheduled for trial in April, has been simmering for three years. After initially bringing his claims in arbitration, the plaintiff, Al-Sameen T. Khan, Ph.D. ("Dr. Khan), filed this action against his former employer, Defendant Delaware State University ("DSU"), and the dean of the college in which he worked, Defendant Noureddine Melikechi ("Dean Melikechi, " collectively with DSU, "Defendants"). Among other things, Dr. Khan claimed his suspension and discharge violated a collective bargaining agreement between DSU and its professors. DSU filed a counterclaim alleging Dr. Khan acted in bad-faith by withdrawing from arbitration.

         In September 2015, Dr. Khan moved for summary judgment as to his breach of contract claims and DSU's bad-faith counterclaim, and DSU filed a summary judgment motion as to Dr. Khan's age discrimination and tortious interference claims. On June 24, 2016, this Court issued a decision: (1) granting Dr. Khan's motion as to DSU's counterclaim, (2) denying summary judgment as to all other counts, and (3) calling for supplemental briefing to address whether a crucial term in the agreement is ambiguous (the "June Decision").[1] I now turn to that question: is the term "professional responsibilities" ambiguous as it is used in the collective bargaining agreement?

         Background

         The factual background of this dispute is discussed extensively in the June Decision.[2] To briefly summarize, Dr. Khan was a tenured professor in the College of Mathematics, Natural Sciences & Technology ("CMNST") at DSU. Dr. Khan's employment as a professor was governed by a collective bargaining agreement (the "CBA").[3] In addition to a faculty position, Dr. Khan also was the CMNST Director of IT, which was a supplemental paid position. After a dispute with Dean Melikechi, who was the dean of CMNST, Dr. Khan resigned from his role as IT Director on March 12, 2012. On March 16, 2012, the IP network Dr. Khan developed for CMNST crashed. Shortly thereafter, DSU suspended and ultimately discharged Dr. Khan from his faculty position. As the basis for Dr. Khan's discharge, DSU asserted Dr. Khan refused to carry out reasonable assignments that contributed substantially to the network crash and failed to respond to reasonable requests to provide information to restore the network.

         The parties agree that as a tenured professor Dr. Khan only could be discharged under the terms of the CBA. DSU takes the position that Dr. Khan was discharged under two sections of the CBA: (i) Section 10.4.3(A), which permits discharge proceedings for the "[f]ailure to perform professional responsibilities either through incompetence, persistent negligence, refusal to carry out reasonable assignments, or disregard for or failure to meet scholarly and professional standards and ethics[, ]" and (ii) Section 10.4.3(E), which authorizes discharge for "[s]erious personal misconduct of such a nature as to warrant and evoke the condemnation of the academic community."

         In September 2015, Dr. Khan moved for summary judgment as to his breach of contract claims and DSU's bad-faith counterclaim. Dr. Khan argued he was entitled to summary judgment on his contract claims because, under the CBA, DSU lacked just cause to terminate him since the charges brought against him did not relate to his performance of "professional responsibilities" as that term is used in the CBA. In that motion, Dr. Khan contended the term "professional responsibilities" meant "Academic Load, " a term defined elsewhere in the CBA. DSU did not squarely address that argument in its briefs, but appeared to contend that "professional responsibilities" should be interpreted more broadly than "Academic Load."[4]

         Through briefing and oral argument, it became apparent to the Court that the parties disagreed over the meaning of the term "professional responsibilities, " but it remained unclear "whether the parties contend[ed] the use of the term 'professional responsibilities' in the CBA is ambiguous."[5] Accordingly, in the June Decision, the Court called for simultaneous supplemental briefing on the narrow issue of whether "professional responsibilities" is an ambiguous term. The parties submitted such briefing, and additional oral argument was held on November 30, 2016.

         The Parties' Contentions

         In the supplemental briefing, Dr. Khan abandoned his contention that "professional responsibilities" is synonymous with "Academic Load, " and now contends that the CBA unambiguously defines the term "professional responsibilities" in Section 12.3. Section 12.3, titled "Faculty Responsibilities and Obligations, " states:

[T]he Association and the University agree that accepting and assuming a faculty position at Delaware State University entails the following professional responsibilities and obligations:
A. To demonstrate and maintain professional competence and knowledge of subject matter and strive to keep informed of contemporary developments in the field of specialization through reading and research, or other means of expression appropriate to the discipline.
B. To meet each class as scheduled.
C. To aspire to excellence in teaching by conducting each class according to the highest professional standards.
D. To distribute policies concerning attendance, course requirements, and criteria for grading to each student at the beginning of each semester.
E. To represent to students during the term and within a reasonable time evaluations of their academic performance and progress in the class.
F. To be available to students on a regular basis for advising and counseling on matters regarding their academic performance and progress in class.
G. To treat all students fairly, impartially, and with understanding.
H. To improve, update, enrich, and revise courses periodically to keep them current.
I. To maintain adherence to course descriptions in accordance with the syllabus and ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.