United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and DR. RACHEL TUDOR, Plaintiffs,
SOUTHEASTERN OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY and THE REGIONAL UNIVERSITY SYSTEM OF OKLAHOMA, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
J. CAUTHRON UNITED STATES DISIRICT JUDGE
United States brought the present action to enforce Title VII
claims against Defendants based on Defendants' actions
towards Plaintiff Dr. Tudor. Dr. Tudor has filed a Complaint
in Intervention adding a claim for hostile work environment.
The premise for each of Plaintiffs' claims are the
alleged actions by Defendants directed at Dr. Tudor following
her transition from male to female.
preparation for trial, Plaintiffs have retained Dr. Robert
Dale Parker, a professor of English at the University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, to offer expert testimony
related to the tenure process. Defendants argue that Dr.
Parker should not be permitted to testify, as his testimony
does not meet the standards set out by Fed.R.Evid. 702 for
admissible expert testimony. According to Defendants, the
question of who should or should not be granted tenure is
such a subjective issue that Dr. Parker's testimony could
not be considered objectively reliable on the issue.
preparing his expert report, Dr. Parker examined five
Southeastern Oklahoma State University professors based upon
whether or not they deserved tenure and then ranked each.
Defendants attack this process, arguing that Dr. Parker's
evaluation of the other professors was unreasonably
subjective and that he lacked the necessary expertise to
properly evaluate each of the other professors' works, as
he does not have experience in each of the areas on which
those professors were writing. Defendants also argue that Dr.
Parker's testimony should be excluded because it lacks
relevance. Finally, Defendants argue that Dr. Parker's
testimony should be excluded because it will not assist the
jury and is unfairly prejudicial. According to Defendants,
Dr. Parker's testimony improperly relies upon factors
which are within the understanding of a lay witness and
therefore outside the scope of necessary expert testimony.
response, Plaintiffs argue that Dr. Parker's testimony
cannot properly be reduced to simply professing a subjective
belief that Dr. Tudor should have been granted tenure;
rather, the direction given was to address whether, in his
professional judgment, Dr. Tudor met Southeastern's
standards for promotion and tenure based on a comparison
between her qualifications and the qualifications of her
colleagues. Plaintiffs note that Dr. Parker has an extensive
experience reviewing tenure portfolios in the field of
English and that he has participated in deliberations for
over 100 promotions and has served on multiple appeals
committees for promotions at the University of Illinois. As
for Defendants' challenge that Dr. Parker's
methodology was not sound or reliable, Plaintiffs note that
because Dr. Parker's opinion is based upon his
experience, the reliability inquiry is different, noting the
advisory committee notes to Rule 702 state: “If the
witness is relying solely or primarily on experience, then
the witness must explain how that experience leads to the
conclusion reached, why that experience is a sufficient basis
for the opinion, and how that experience is reliably applied
to the facts.” According to Plaintiffs, Dr.
Parker's report addresses each of those factors and
therefore is sufficiently reliable.
Plaintiffs argue that Dr. Parker's testimony is relevant
as it provides a comparative analysis of the qualifications
of Dr. Tudor as compared to successful tenure and promotion
candidates. Additionally, Plaintiffs argue that Dr.
Parker's opinion is directly relevant on determining
whether or not Defendants' stated reasons for denying Dr.
Tudor tenure were a pretext for discrimination. Specifically,
Dr. Parker's report provides evidence that the stated
reason for denying Dr. Tudor tenure - that her research and
service are not only deficient but the poorest seen in twenty
years - was not true. Plaintiffs argue that Dr. Parker's
testimony will unquestionably assist the jury as it will
provide some explanation and understanding of the tenure
process and provide insight into Dr. Tudor's
qualifications as they existed within the tenure package.
the consideration of the arguments raised by the parties, the
Court finds that Dr. Parker will be permitted to offer expert
testimony in this matter. While he certainly could not offer
an opinion on the ultimate issue - that is, did Defendants
improperly discriminate against Dr. Tudor - he certainly is
qualified to explain to the jury the tenure application
process, his consideration of Dr. Tudor's work, and his
comparison of that work to other applicants who were offered
tenure. This testimony will be helpful to the jury in
evaluating the veracity of Defendants' stated reasons for
denying Dr. Tudor tenure. The average layperson has no
experience or knowledge of how the tenure process works, what
methodology is used to evaluate their qualifications or
scholarship. Thus, Dr. Parker's opinion will provide at
least some relevant insight on these issues. To the extent
Defendants raise challenges to the procedure used by Dr.
Parker or challenge his methodology, those arguments are
matters to be addressed through proper cross-examination
rather than serve as a basis for striking Dr. Parker's
to the extent Defendants argue that Goswami v. DePaul
University, 8 F.Supp.3d 1019 (N.D. Ill. 2014), resolves
the issue, the Court agrees with Plaintiffs that that case is
distinguishable. At a minimum at this stage where a motion
for summary judgment may still be filed questions of pretext
are still relevant to this case. Certainly, Dr. Parker's
testimony will provide some relevant evidence on that issue.
Therefore, the Goswami opinion is not dispositive of
reasons set forth herein, Defendants' Second Motion in
Limine (Dkt. No. 98) is DENIED. Dr. Parker will be permitted
to testify in this ...