Leadership & Governance

N.Y. Court Dismisses Complaint of Meddling by Hunter College Chief

January 15, 2014

A New York trial court has dismissed a legal complaint that alleged that the president of the City University of New York's Hunter College wrongfully interfered in a professor's failed bid for reappointment a year before her tenure case was to be considered.

Noel L. Goddard, a former assistant professor of physics at Hunter, accused Jennifer J. Raab, Hunter's president, of meddling in the professor's reappointment case even after Ms. Raab had recused herself from it. The president recused herself from the case because Ms. Goddard was involved in a romantic relationship with Leonard F. Zinnanti, who was a vice president in Ms. Raab's cabinet at the time.

Judge Alexander W. Hunter Jr. dismissed Ms. Goddard's case, saying the former professor had failed to exhaust other administrative remedies available to her under the grievance procedures of the university's collective-bargaining agreement. He disagreed with Ms. Goddard's argument that those proceedings were futile.

In 2013, Ms. Goddard appealed a faculty committee's decision not to reappoint her in her seventh year, but the decision was upheld by Matthew Goldstein, then CUNY's chancellor.

"Your scholarly record is inadequate," Mr. Goldstein wrote in a letter to Ms. Goddard.

The judge's ruling does not address the specific merits of Ms. Goddard's complaint, which alleged that Ms. Raab had sought to influence the outcome of the reappointment deliberations by speaking with faculty members involved in the case and offering Ms. Goddard alternate positions at Hunter during her appeals process.

Laura S. Hertzog, Hunter's acting special counsel to the president and dean of faculty and staff relations, provided a statement on Wednesday that reiterated the college's position that Ms. Goddard's case was groundless.

"We are pleased to see that the court has dismissed Dr. Goddard's case," Ms. Hertzog said in an email. "While the case was dismissed on technical grounds, Hunter's position has always been that Dr. Goddard's position was meritless, and we were confident that the same result would have been reached had the judge decided the case on the merits."

The contentious case taxed Ms. Raab's longstanding professional relationship with Mr. Zinnanti, who resigned last summer as Hunter's acting chief operating officer. Mr. Zinnanti is now controller at the university's system office.

Ms. Goddard works with a biotechnology research and development company that she founded with her father, according to the company's website.

Contacted by email, Ms. Goddard said she could not respond to questions before first conferring with her lawyer. She provided no further response, and her lawyer did not respond to a phone message.

Clarification (1/22/2014, 4:04 p.m.): This article originally described imprecisely the nature of Ms. Goddard's case. She was unsuccessful in a bid for reappointment a year before her tenure case was to be considered. The case did not concern her bid for tenure. The article has been updated to reflect this clarification.