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HOLERT v. UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

November 26, 1990

PATRICK HOLERT, Plaintiff,
v.
THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant


Suzanne B. Conlon, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: CONLON

SUZANNE B. CONLON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 This is a breach of contract action between the University of Chicago and Patrick Holert, a former student in the University's Graduate School of Business. The case arises from Holert's expulsion from the University for allegedly engaging in a "systematic, prolonged and premeditated pattern of harassment" of another student in the Graduate School of Business. Holert seeks a mandatory injunction compelling the University to rescind his expulsion and to award him a Master of Business Administration ("M.B.A.") degree retroactive to June 9, 1989, his scheduled graduation date. In addition, Holert seeks damages for financial losses and humiliation.

 A bench trial was conducted on November 19 and 20, 1990. After hearing the testimony of the witnesses and the arguments of counsel, and reviewing the agreed statement of uncontested facts appended to the final pretrial order, the exhibits, deposition excerpts, and proposed findings submitted by both parties, the court enters the following findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Rule 52(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

 FINDINGS OF FACT

 1. Defendant University of Chicago ("the University") is a not-for-profit corporation duly organized and existing under the laws of the State of Illinois, with its principal place of business located in Chicago, Illinois.

 3. The fees and expenses Holert incurred in pursuing his M.B.A. degree at the University exceed $ 50,000.

 4. The University is an institution of higher learning. Among its divisions is the Graduate School of Business, which is empowered to grant M.B.A. degrees.

 5. A contractual relationship was created between the parties when the University accepted Holert's application into its M.B.A. program in the 1987 autumn quarter.

 6. Holert completed 17 of the 20 required courses for an M.B.A. degree prior to the 1989 spring quarter; Holert was scheduled to receive an M.B.A. degree with honors on June 9, 1989.

 7. The University refused to award Holert an M.B.A. degree because charges were pending against him before a Graduate School of Business faculty disciplinary committee.

 8. Holert and the University agreed to an expedited resolution of the disciplinary committee charges.

 9. On August 21, 1989, the University notified Holert that he was retroactively expelled as of March 27, 1989, that he would not receive credit for his 1989 spring quarter courses, and that he would not be awarded an M.B.A. degree. Pl.Ex. 67. *fn1"

 10. Some of the contractual terms and conditions between Holert and the University were embodied in the Graduate School of Business' Announcements catalog and its Dean of Students Handbook, as well as in the University's Student Information Manual.

 11. The Announcements catalog specified that an M.B.A. candidate must satisfactorily complete 20 courses in the Graduate School of Business to earn a degree. The catalog also provides that all University students agree to abide by the University's rules set forth in the Student Information Manual. The manual is given to all University students upon matriculation.

 12. The 1988-1989 edition of the Student Information Manual provided in relevant part:

 
Personal abuse, whether oral or written, exceeds the bounds of appropriate discourse and civil conduct. An individual who harasses another because of his or her race, sex, sexual orientation, ethnic background, religion, expression of opinion, or any other factor irrelevant to participation in the free exchange of ideas may be made subject to the grievance and student disciplinary procedures [described in the manual].

 13. Sherry Jarrell, a Ph.D. candidate, first notified the Graduate School of Business of alleged harassment by Holert and two other M.B.A. students, Valerie Wakahiro and William Orr, in April 1989. Holert and Jarrell lived in adjoining apartments in the University's residential apartment building located at 5110 S. Kenwood Avenue in Chicago. Orr and Wakahiro, who lived together, were Holert's friends; Orr and Wakahiro did not personally know Jarrell.

 14. The alleged harassment included pounding on the common wall between Jarrell's and Holert's apartments, yelling obscenities and threats through the common wall, *fn2" abusive telephone calls, as well as mail theft and the illegal use of Jarrell's credit cards stolen from her mailbox.

 15. Jarrell was dating George Easton, an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Business. On April 21, 1989, Easton filed a charge against Holert for leaving a threatening message on Easton's answering machine; Easton also complained about threats to Jarrell through a common wall between Jarrell's and Holert's apartments and harassing telephone calls to Jarrell. Pl.Ex. 8. Holert responded in a letter dated April 27, 1989, by denying the charges. Pl.Ex. 9. In his response, Holert stated that,

 
I have never contacted Ms. Jarrell by telephone and I do not know her ...

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