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QVYJT v. LIN

July 23, 1996

FERNANDO QVYJT, Plaintiff,
v.
DR. CHHIU-TSU LIN, DR. JOE W. VAUGHN and DR. MORLEY RUSSELL, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: REINHARD

 INTRODUCTION

 Plaintiff, Fernando Qvyjt, filed an amended three-count complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants, Dr. Chhiu-Tsu Lin ("Dr. Lin"), Dr. Joe W. Vaughn ("Dr. Vaughn") and Dr. Morley Russell ("Dr. Russell"). At the time the basis for this action arose, plaintiff was a graduate student at Northern Illinois University ("NIU"), and defendants were faculty members of NIU's chemistry department. Count I alleges that defendants deprived plaintiff of his property right and liberty interest in obtaining an education at NIU without due process of law. Counts II and III allege that defendants retaliated against plaintiff for exercising his First Amendment right to free speech. This court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343, and venue is proper as all the alleged events occurred in this district and division. Defendants move for summary judgment on all counts.

 FACTS

 Defendants note that all facts contained in their statement of facts filed pursuant to Local General Rule 12M are deemed admitted due to plaintiff's failure to comply with Local General Rule 12N. Local General Rule 12N provides the only acceptable means of disputing the moving parties' facts and of presenting additional facts to the court. Midwest Imports, Ltd. v. Coval, 71 F.3d 1311, 1317 (7th Cir. 1995). Plaintiff did not file a statement of facts consisting of short, numbered paragraphs pursuant to Local General Rule 12N(3)(a) in order to contest any fact contained in defendants' 12M statement, nor did he file a similar statement pursuant to Local General Rule 12N(3)(b) to offer any additional facts. Instead, plaintiff begins his response brief by stating that although he has "few quarrels" with defendants' statement of facts, he would make some "corrections and additions." Plaintiff then proceeds to offer the corrections and additions in the form of a narrative factual discussion, leaving this court to divine what portions of defendants' 12M statement he seeks to contest and discover the additional facts he seeks to offer. This task does not rest on the district court; rather, the task rests on the litigants, Northwestern Nat'l Ins. Co. v. Baltes, 15 F.3d 660, 662-63 (7th Cir. 1994), and instead of scouring the record in search of factual disputes, a court may deem the facts in the 12M statement admitted, Flaherty v. Gas Research Inst., 31 F.3d 451, 453 (7th Cir. 1994), and may disregard the additional facts improperly submitted by the non-moving party, Midwest Imports, Ltd., 71 F.3d at 1317. Accordingly, all facts contained in defendants' 12M statement are deemed admitted to the extent they are properly supported by the record, Stewart v. McGinnis, 5 F.3d 1031, 1034 (7th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1121, 127 L. Ed. 2d 393, 114 S. Ct. 1075 (1994), and the additional facts set forth in plaintiff's response brief are stricken. What follows, therefore, is a summary of the facts considered for purposes of this motion. The court views these facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the non-moving party. Henry v. Daytop Village, Inc., 42 F.3d 89, 92 (7th Cir. 1994).

 In 1990, plaintiff applied to NIU's graduate program in chemistry, at which time it was his desire to work with Dr. Lin. In November 1991, Dr. Lin informally became plaintiff's dissertation director and formally became his research advisor. Dr. Lin informed plaintiff about a project he was directing which involved coatings. In particular, Dr. Lin was adding phosphoric acid to paint to improve the adhesion the paint would have on metal surfaces. Plaintiff agreed to work on this project. In the spring and summer of 1992, Dr. Lin told Ping Lin, another graduate student in the chemistry department, to continue her work on the use of phenyl phosphoric acid and amines with respect to the project. In the fall of 1992, plaintiff was nominated for a Patricia Roberts Harris Fellowship, a fellowship provided by the United States Department of Education designed to support minorities and women in certain fields of study. The fellowship carried a yearly stipend of $ 14,000. Plaintiff received the fellowship from October 1, 1993 to September 30, 1994 and from October 1, 1994 to May 31, 1995.

 On November 8, 1993, plaintiff wrote a letter to Larry R. Sill, director of the technology commercialization center at NIU, claiming that Dr. Lin misappropriated his work and engaged in other acts of research misconduct. On November 10, 1993, Dean Jerrold H. Zar ("Dean Zar"), Associate Provost for Graduate Studies and dean of NIU's graduate school, met with Dr. Vaughn, chairman of NIU's chemistry department, regarding plaintiff's allegations. The following day, Dr. Vaughn told plaintiff that he would inform Dr. Lin of the charges, after which he spoke with Dr. Lin and gave him a copy of plaintiff's charges. Pursuant to the procedures outlined in a NIU document entitled "Research Integrity at Northern Illinois University" ("Research Integrity Procedures") an informal review committee ("Review Committee") was formed, consisting of faculty members of the chemistry department, to reconcile or conciliate the dispute between the parties involved in the allegations of research misconduct. Dr. Vaughn appointed Dr. Russell, Dr. Dennis Kevil and Dr. James Erman to the Review Committee on November 15, 1993. These particular faculty members were chosen because they had not published or collaborated with Dr. Lin in his research. Dr. Vaughn was responsible for overseeing the Review Committee.

 Plaintiff requested Dean Zar to further investigate this matter on February 7, 1994, after which a research standards inquiry committee ("Inquiry Committee") was formed. Vice President and Provost J. Carroll Moody appointed Professor Jon W. Carnahan, Professor Robin Rogers and Professor Charles W. Spangler, all faculty members of the chemistry department, to the Inquiry Committee. Pursuant to the Research Integrity Procedures, Dean Zar was a non-voting member of the committee. In addition, both plaintiff and Dr. Lin could challenge the appointment of these individuals to the Inquiry Committee. On May 18, 1994, Dean Zar provided the members of the Inquiry Committee with a memorandum describing the allegations, a copy of plaintiff's letter of November 8, 1993 and Dr. Lin's written response to the allegations. On June 6, 1994, Dean Zar informed plaintiff and Dr. Lin in separate letters that the Inquiry Committee needed more information from each of them. Dean Zar requested that the materials be provided by June 20, 1994. Dr. Lin provided all the information requested of him by that date. Plaintiff, however, did not provide the requested information by that date. On July 6, 1994, Dean Zar sent plaintiff a letter by certified mail, return receipt, informing him that the Inquiry Committee had not yet received the materials. Because plaintiff had not yet provided the materials, Dean Zar cancelled the Inquiry Committee's scheduled meeting.

 Also on July 6, 1994, plaintiff's dissertation committee sent him a letter stating that his research report was insufficient to qualify as a dissertation. The dissertation committee suggested that plaintiff sever his relationship with Dr. Lin and select a new thesis advisor as well as a new, mutually acceptable, doctoral project or that plaintiff rewrite the work previously submitted and upon approval, the dissertation committee would accept the work as satisfying the requirement for a master's degree. On July 28, 1994, plaintiff informed Dr. Vaughn that he was not interested in either option suggested by the dissertation committee.

 On August 2, 1994, Dean Zar received the requested materials from plaintiff. The materials were forwarded to the Inquiry Committee. The Inquiry Committee divided plaintiff's allegations into two categories-- research misconduct with respect to the patent Dr. Lin was applying for and research misconduct with respect to a paper published by Dr. Lin and co-authored by plaintiff. On September 26, 1994, Dr. Vaughn wrote plaintiff a letter informing plaintiff, as he had earlier, that due to safety and liability reasons, plaintiff would not be permitted to use the laboratory for research until he selected a new dissertation advisor. On November 3, 1994, Dean Zar informed plaintiff that the Inquiry Committee had concluded that a formal investigation was warranted to review the allegations against Dr. Lin. Plaintiff was informed that the Inquiry Committee needed his research notebooks and that he should provide them within the next two weeks. To conduct a formal investigation, a separate committee was formed pursuant to the Research Integrity Procedures. This separate committee, the research standards investigation committee ("Investigation Committee"), consisted of three members of the Inquiry Committee (Carnahan, Spangler and Rogers), Dr. Larry Sill, Dr. Parviz Payvar and Dean Zar as a non-voting member. Plaintiff was permitted to challenge the selection of these members and at least one individual challenged by him was not placed on the Investigation Committee. The Investigation Committee would investigate the allegations regarding the patent; the allegations regarding the paper remained with the Inquiry Committee.

 On January 6, 1995, Dean Zar sent plaintiff another letter on behalf of the Investigation Committee requesting his research notebooks and stating that these materials were necessary in order for the Investigation Committee to complete its review of his allegations. On January 25, 1995, the Inquiry Committee made its findings with respect to the allegations concerning the paper, concluding that Dr. Lin had not committed any research misconduct. On January 26, 1995, Dean Zar, on behalf of the Investigation Committee, requested plaintiff's research notebooks again and notified plaintiff that he had until February 10, 1995 to produce the materials, otherwise the Investigation Committee would terminate its investigation and render a conclusion based on the information provided to date. Although it does not appear that plaintiff submitted all of the requested materials, it appears that he at least submitted portions of his research notebooks to the Investigation Committee either on a prior occasion or subsequent to Dean Zar's last request. On April 4, 1995, Carnahan drafted a report after comparing portions of plaintiff's notebooks that had been submitted and Ping Lin's notebooks and the formulations contained therein. Carnahan determined that plaintiff's formulation of P69 was essentially the same formulation discovered by Ping Lin and that Ping Lin's formulation preceded plaintiff's by at least three months. Carnahan's draft report was distributed to Vice-President Moody, plaintiff and Dr. Lin, and plaintiff and Dr. Lin were given an opportunity to comment on it. Both Dr. Lin and plaintiff responded, and on May 4, 1995, the Investigation Committee issued its final report. On May 10, 1995, Vice President Moody informed plaintiff by letter that he agreed with the findings in the Investigation Committee's final report.

 Because plaintiff had failed to comply with the requirements set by his dissertation committee and the graduate program, the chemistry department recommended that plaintiff be dismissed from the doctoral program. On May 12, 1995, Dr. Carla Montgomery, Associate Dean, informed plaintiff by letter that his admission to the doctoral program in chemistry was terminated pursuant to NIU's graduate catalog. Plaintiff's termination was based on his documented failure to make satisfactory progress toward his degree. The termination was not based on his allegations made against Dr. Lin. Because one of the conditions to maintaining plaintiff's fellowship was ...


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