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Wilson v. Illinois Benedictine College





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County; the Hon. John S. Teschner, Judge, presiding. JUSTICE UNVERZAGT DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Illinois Benedictine College (hereafter IBC), defendant, appeals the granting of an injunction by the circuit court of Du Page County, requiring IBC to graduate the plaintiff, Craig Wilson, at its May 23, 1982, commencement and to award him a bachelor of arts degree, provided he received a grade of "D" or better in each of his 1982 spring semester courses. On May 20, 1982, this court stayed enforcement of this injunction pending appeal. On appeal, IBC contends that the circuit court erred in denying its motions to dismiss the complaint and for summary judgment, and in granting this mandatory injunction, arguing that the contract between IBC and Wilson, the IBC Bulletin 1978-79 (hereafter Bulletin), was not ambiguous in setting forth the necessary requirements to be eligible for graduation.

Wilson, an accounting major at IBC, filed a two-count complaint against IBC after being informed that his failure to receive a grade of "C" or better in two economics courses precluded him from graduating until he retook those courses. In count I, a specific performance count, Wilson alleged, inter alia, that a contract exists between him and IBC by virtue of the Bulletin which provides that IBC would certify Wilson for graduation if he completes certain courses and pays the necessary tuition; that he fulfilled or will fulfill his obligations pursuant to this contract by the end of the 1982 spring semester; that IBC, without any basis, wrote a letter to him informing him that he could not be certified for graduation; and that he has no adequate remedy of law. In count II, requesting a mandatory injunction and declaratory relief, Wilson realleged the allegations set forth in count I, and added that no advisor in IBC's student advising system advised him that he would have to repeat the two courses in which he received "D's"; that the Bulletin is ambiguous; that IBC's agents refused to waive any of these requirements; that IBC and its agents acted arbitrarily and capriciously; and that irreparable harm results.

Wilson began his studies at IBC during the fall of 1978. He received a copy of the Bulletin during the prior summer and chose accounting as a major when he registered. In the spring of 1980 term, he took a macroeconomics course and received the grade "D"; the next fall he took microeconomics and also received a "D." He received a copy of his grade report at the end of each semester which revealed these grades. He never discussed or inquired about the effect of these grades with his advisor or any faculty member or administration official. He never consulted the Bulletin to determine the effect of these grades.

On February 2, 1982, during the last semester before Wilson expected to graduate, he received a letter from IBC stating that he would not be allowed to graduate because he failed to receive grades of "C" or better in the two economics courses. He sought a waiver of this requirement but Dr. Margarete P. Roth, chairperson of the economics department until 1981, and Dr. Hull, refused to waive this requirement. Wilson was referred to the dean, Dr. Marvin E. Camburn, yet Wilson never met with him. Dr. Roth testified that she never has and never would waive the requirement that a student receive a "C" or better in these courses because they are important courses and waiver could harm IBC's reputation. Wilson would have graduated but for the two "D's" he received in these courses.

Professor Norman Gierlasinski, Wilson's junior and senior year advisor, never discussed the impact that the two "D's" would have on Wilson's graduation prospects although he met with Wilson every semester and knew that he anticipated graduating in May 1982. Gierlasinski testified that he did not know that Wilson had received those grades, and that had he known he would have talked to Wilson about them. Grade reports, however, found in Wilson's advisor's file revealed that Wilson received "D's" in those two courses. That file also contains checkoff sheets which keep track of a student's completion of courses needed for graduation but do not mention the required grades. Gierlasinski discussed with Wilson the courses needed according to this requirement sheet to fulfill his graduation requirements. He first realized Wilson's deficiency when Wilson called him concerning the receipt of the letter of February 2, 1982.

Although IBC has a deficiency notice system by which a professor sends a notice to the student when a student is doing poorly in a course, a copy of which is placed in his advisor's file, no such notice was issued in Wilson's economics courses. Thomas J. Dyba, executive vice-president of IBC, explained that the reason for this lack of notice could be that where a student appears to be doing well in a course, no notice is sent even though that student may eventually end up receiving a "D."

Dean Camburn testified that an advisor need not go over a student's file during that student's junior year. Thomas Dyba testified that both the student and the advisor have the responsibility to know whether a course needs to be retaken.

After Wilson received the notification from IBC he rejected various options offered by Mr. Dyba to secure his graduation: retaking macroeconomics during the current term and participating in an independent study project in lieu of retaking microeconomics; taking one course at another college and transferring the credits; or taking summer school with permission to be absent for two weeks for his planned wedding and honeymoon to California. Wilson intended to take the certified public accountant's review course during the summer, although he was not certain whether he was going to take the examination in November. He had received a full-time job offer from the place where he had been working part-time, but his salary had not yet been determined. The job offer did not require Wilson to take the CPA examination. During Wilson's tenure at IBC, he never took more than 15 hours a semester and currently was taking 15 hours. He admitted, however, that had he decided to take extra hours of the economics courses during the current semester, it would not have been excessive because he had already been exposed to the material.

The Bulletin provides in pertinent part: a student must earn 120 semester hours and maintain a "C" average during his college career; "[o]nly courses in which a student has received a `C' or better may be applied to the major" and "[r]epetition may be required if the student received `D' in a course in his or her major and specific departmental regulations so require * * *." The Bulletin then discusses the various majors and minors and sets forth the required courses utilizing different language to explain the requirements: at times the Bulletin states that a student must successfully complete certain courses; other times it states that a student must satisfactorily complete certain courses. With respect to economics majors, which encompasses accounting, Wilson's major, a student must successfully complete microeconomics and macroeconomics. The Bulletin further provides that, "Since students are responsible for their own academic programs, and for meeting the requirements of their major department, it is recommended that they meet with their faculty advisors for counseling at least once each semester."

On the day set for trial, IBC filed a motion for summary judgment, which the court denied. At the close of the evidence, IBC renewed this motion and made an oral motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a cause of action pursuant to section 45 of the Civil Practice Act, recodified as section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 110, par. 2-615). The court denied both of these motions. The trial court found that the use of different language in the Bulletin relating what courses a student must complete created an ambiguity because the term "satisfactorily" implies a grade of "C" while the use of "successfully" could mean something less than a grade of "C," and concluded that since a "D" is a passing grade, Wilson fulfilled the requirements for graduation.

Although IBC presents four issues for review, we need merely determine whether the mandatory injunction was properly entered and whether the deficiencies in IBC's brief require this court to dismiss the appeal. The resolution of these two issues is dispositive of the appeal. We find it unnecessary, therefore, to consider the additional issues presented. A reviewing court will not consider questions or contentions which are not essential to the determination of the case before it. Yale Development Co. v. Andermann (1976), 37 Ill. App.3d 33.

• 1 Wilson's brief first argues that this court should either dismiss IBC's appeal or summarily affirm the judgment below based upon certain deficiencies in IBC's brief. Reviewing courts> may dismiss an appeal where the appellant's brief fails to comply with supreme court rules applicable to briefs. (47th & State Currency Exchange, Inc. v. B. Coleman Corp. (1977), 56 Ill. App.3d 229, 232.) In Coleman, the court explained that Supreme Court Rule 341(e) (87 Ill.2d R. 341(e)),

"is not an arbitrary exercise of the supreme court's supervisory powers. Its purpose is to require parties to proceedings before a reviewing court to present clear and orderly arguments for that court's consideration.

Briefs are for the benefit of the reviewing court. They should be prepared in accordance with the applicable supreme court rule. They should follow the sequence set forth in the rule to the end a reviewing court may properly ascertain ...

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