University of Pennsylvania v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

PETITIONER: University of Pennsylvania
RESPONDENT: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
LOCATION: Maple Heights High School

DOCKET NO.: 88-493
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 493 US 182 (1990)
ARGUED: Nov 07, 1989
DECIDED: Jan 09, 1990

Kenneth W. Starr - Argued the cause for the respondent
Rex E. Lee - Argued the cause for the petitioner

Facts of the case

Rosalie Tung was an Asian-American professor who believed that she was denied tenure because of her sex and her race. To investigate her claim, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission asked the University for access to Tung's confidential peer review file. Citing the protection of academic freedom, the University refused to cooperate so as to avoid breaching the confidentiality promised to reviewers.


Does requiring a university to disclose confidential peer review materials in an investigation violate the First Amendment?

Media for University of Pennsylvania v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 07, 1989 in University of Pennsylvania v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 09, 1990 in University of Pennsylvania v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Harry A. Blackmun:

The second case is No. 88-493, The University of Pennsylvania against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

This case, coming to us from the Third Circuit, concerns academic tenure.

Associate professor Rosalie Tung was denied tenure by the University of Pennsylvania, and she filed a charge with the EEOC alleging discrimination on the basis of race and sex and national origin in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

In the course of its investigation, the Commission issued a subpoena seeking from the University the professor’s tenure review file and the tenure files of five male faculty members identified as having received more favorable treatment than Tung.

The issue is whether this tenure file material need not be produced in response to the subpoena.

The EEOC successfully sought enforcement by the District Court.

The Third Circuit affirmed and rejected claims that policy considerations and First Amendment principles of academic freedom required a qualified privilege or the adaption of balancing approach that would require the Commission to demonstrate some particularized need to obtain peer review materials.

This obviously is rather a sensitive situation in the halls of academia, but in an opinion filed with the Clerk today, we affirm the judgment below.

A university does not enjoy a special privilege beyond a showing of mere relevance before peer review materials pertinent to charges of discrimination in tenure decisions are disclosed to the EEOC.

And this decision, too, is unanimous.