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Tenure Review Files Can't Be Sealed in Academic Employment Discrimination Lawsuit

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Free Speech

Eugene Volokh | 9.24.2021 8:33 AM

From Veikos v. Univ. of Pa., decided Wednesday by Judge Joshua Wolson (E.D. Pa.):

For the public to have confidence in the work of the courts, it must have as much visibility as possible into the work that the courts do. After all, "[t]he Judicial Branch belongs to the American people," and "Americans cannot keep a watchful eye … if they are wearing blindfolds." Motions to seal limit that visibility. For that reason, this Court has emphasized the showing that a party must make before the Court will seal judicial records.

The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania has asked the Court to seal certain exhibits that the parties will submit in support of their motions for summary judgment. The documents in question will be the heart of the case—comparator documents that demonstrate whether Penn treated Plaintiff Catherine Veikos differently from similarly situated tenure candidates. Penn has not demonstrated that its interest in maintaining the secrecy of these documents outweighs the public's right of access…..

Ms. Veikos claims that Penn discriminated against her on the basis of her gender and familial status when it denied her tenure. She bases her argument in part on Penn's treatment of other tenure candidates who she argues are comparators. Like most institutions, Penn conducts a broad review of tenure candidates' work before making the decision to award tenure. It asks for input from internal and external reviewers. When Penn solicits input from an external reviewer, it explains its policy that "external letters of evaluation are held in confidence. However, in the event of litigation or a government investigation, the candidate or others may gain access to the information contained in these letters."

Both parties have........

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