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Committe v. Oregon State University

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

May 8, 2015



JANICE M. STEWART, Magistrate Judge.


Plaintiff, Bruce Committe ("Committe"), applied in July 2012 for an assistant professor position in the Accounting Department at the Cascades campus of defendant, Oregon State University ("OSU"). When OSU hired a younger person, he filed this lawsuit pro se alleging in his First Amended Complaint (docket #38) that OSU discriminated against him based on his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 USC §§ 621-34 ("ADEA").

All parties have consented to allow a Magistrate Judge to enter final orders and judgment in this case in accordance with FRCP 73 and 28 USC § 636(c) (docket #22).

Under FRCP 56, OSU moves for summary judgment against the First Amended Complaint (docket #48).[1] For the reasons set forth below, that motion is granted.


FRCP 56(c) authorizes summary judgment if "no genuine issue" exists regarding any material fact and "the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The moving party must show an absence of an issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party does so, the nonmoving party must "go beyond the pleadings" and designate specific facts showing a "genuine issue for trial." Id at 324, citing FRCP 56(e). The court must "not weigh the evidence or determine the truth of the matter, but only [determine] whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Balint v. Carson City, Nev., 180 F.3d 1047, 1054 (9th Cir 1999) (citation omitted). A " scintilla of evidence, ' or evidence that is merely colorable' or not significantly probative, '" does not present a genuine issue of material fact. United Steelworkers of Am. v. Phelps Dodge Corp., 865 F.2d 1539, 1542 (9th Cir 1989) (citation omitted), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 809 (1989).

The substantive law governing a claim or defense determines whether a fact is material. Addisu v. Fred Meyer, Inc., 198 F.3d 1130, 1134 (9th Cir 2000) (citation omitted). The court must view the inferences drawn from the facts "in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Farrakhan v. Gregoire, 590 F.3d 989, 1014 (9th Cir 2010), citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). In employment discrimination cases, "very little evidence" is required to survive summary judgment "because the ultimate question is one that can only be resolved through a searching inquiry - one that is most appropriately conducted by the factfinder, upon a full record." Schnidrig v. Columbia Mach., Inc., 80 F.3d 1406, 1410 (9th Cir 1996) (internal quotations and citation omitted), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 927 (1996).


In July 2012, OSU posted a job listing for an assistant professor at its Cascades campus ("Cascades position") in Bend, Oregon, beginning in the fall of 2013. Elston Decl. (docket #49), ¶ 3 & Ex. 1, p. 2; Committe Ex. 4.[2] The Cascades Position is a full-time, tenure-track faculty position that involves 50% teaching and developing curriculum; 40% developing and implementing "a research program that involves empirical and conceptual investigations, " seeking funding to support this research, and publishing the results in "high quality peerreviewed journals;" and 10% professional "service activities related to an accounting program with strong ties to the profession." Elston Decl., Ex. 1, pp. 1-2;[3] Committe Ex. 4. Although Committe does not recall seeing it (Kammer Decl. (docket #51), Ex. 1 ("Committe Depo."), p. 52), OSU established the following four "Minimum/Required Qualifications" for applicants:

PhD in accounting from an AACSB accredited school or equivalent.
Potential to publish in highly ranked accounting journals.
Demonstrated excellence in teaching financial, managerial, or tax accounting and mentoring of students.
A strong interest in establishing a well-respected accounting program at the branch campus.

Elston Decl., Ex. 1, p. 2.

In addition, OSU listed two "Preferred (Special) Qualifications" of professional certification and a commitment to promoting and enhancing diversity. Id. Applicants were instructed to submit a letter of interest; curriculum vitae; evidence of teaching effectiveness; a statement of their research, teaching and career goals; and contact information for four references. Id.

OSU assembled a hiring committee to review the applicants which consisted of: (1) Julie Elston, Associate Professor of Business at the Cascades campus, who served as the chair until she left on sabbatical in January 2013; (2) Marla Hacker, Dean of Academic Programs at the Cascades campus, who served as chair beginning in January 2013; (3) Roger Graham, an accounting professor at OSU's Corvallis campus; and (4) Jim Ellis, a business administration instructor at Central Oregon Community College ("COCC"). Elston Decl., ¶ 2; Hacker Decl. (docket #50), ¶ 2.

Committe was one of several applicants for the Cascades Position. Elston Decl., ¶ 5 & Ex. 2; Committe Depo., p. 49. At that time, he was 60 years old. Committe Depo., p. 24. In support of his application, Committe submitted his curriculum vitae listing, among other things, his research philosophy, his educational and professional background, and his publications (both published and under submission). Elston Decl., ¶ 5 & Ex. 2; Committe Depo., pp. 73-75 & Ex. 8. He also submitted four references, a chart listing information from his teaching evaluations from 1987 to 1992, a cover letter, and an unpublished research paper which outlined a new accounting theory. Elston Decl., ¶ 5 & Ex. ...

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