Liu v. Striuli, C.A. No. 96-0137L (D. R.I. 1/19/1999), C.A. No. 96-0137L.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Rhode Island
Writing for the CourtLagueux
PartiesMary Y. LIU, Plaintiff, v. Giacomo STRIULI and Providence College, Defendants.
Docket NumberC.A. No. 96-0137L.
Decision Date19 January 1999

Page 1

Mary Y. LIU, Plaintiff,
v.
Giacomo STRIULI and Providence College, Defendants.
C.A. No. 96-0137L.
United States District Court, D. Rhode Island.
January 19, 1999.

Gerald C. DeMaria, John F. Kelleher, James A. Ruggieri, Higgins, Cavanagh & Cooney, Providence, RI, Patricia E. Andrews, Providence, RI, for plaintiffs.

Lynette Labinger, Roney & Labinger, Providence, RI, for defendant Striuli.

Marifrances K. McGinn, Richard P. McMahon, McMahon & McMahon, Providence, RI, for all other defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

LAGUEUX, Chief District Judge.


Plaintiff Mary Liu ("Liu") was a graduate student at defendant Providence College (the "College") when, she alleges, she was sexually harassed over the course of one year by defendant Giacomo Striuli ("Striuli"), who at the time was a professor at the College. In her Amended Complaint alleging federal and state causes of action against both Striuli and the College, Liu seeks a monetary award and equitable relief. Striuli's Motion for Summary Judgment on all of plaintiff's claims, or, alternatively, Partial Summary Judgment on some of the claims is now before this Court for consideration. Also before the Court is the College's Motion for Summary Judgment as to all counts asserted against it. For the reasons set forth below, Striuli's motion is granted in part and denied in part. The College's motion is granted in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

The complex nature of the causes of action asserted by Liu necessitates a careful review of the facts of the tangled associations between these parties. Many facts are in dispute regarding the nature of the relationship between Liu and Striuli and the actions of relevant characters in this controversy. Because the task before this Court is to determine whether summary judgment is appropriate, the Court must view the facts on the record and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Continental Cas. Co. v. Canadian Universal Ins. Co., 924 F.2d 370, 373 (1st Cir. 1991). Liu is entitled to the benefit of this rule at this stage of the proceeding and the following recitation of facts has been constructed with those ground rules in mind.

Liu, a native of Taiwan, entered the graduate program in history at Providence College in the fall of 1992. She had been a student in the M.B.A. program at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island since 1990 when she first came to the United States. Liu was able to study in the United States because she had applied for and received an F-1 student visa from the federal government that allowed her to reside in this country while pursuing her education. Liu began working on her Ph.D. in history in the fall of 1993 and was formally accepted into the Ph.D. program by the College in the fall of 1994. While at the College, Liu worked as a graduate assistant in the College's Dominican Archives from September 1992 until May 1996.

The series of events which resulted in her first encounter with Striuli was precipitated by a trip she took in December 1993 with her brother, who was also studying in this country, to Austria where her mother resided. Before leaving, Liu asked Fr. Thomas McGonigle ("Fr.McGonigle"), the Vice President for Academic Affairs at the College, whether her immigration documents were in order for her trip abroad. After signing Liu's Form I-20,1 Fr. McGonigle told Liu that she could now leave the country.

Liu discovered, however, that there were problems with her visa status when she attempted to return to the United States in early January 1994. In Vienna, United States immigration officials informed her that her F-1 visa had expired. After several days in Austria, the American Embassy issued her a B-2 tourist visa that allowed her to return to the United States. Liu was unaware at the time that the visa she had been granted was different from the F-1 visa that she had previously held.

In September of 1994, Dr. Donna McCaffrey ("Dr.McCaffrey") of the History Department learned that there was a problem with Liu's visa. The B-2 tourist visa issued by the American Embassy in January was valid for only six months and had expired that summer. Dr. McCaffrey referred Liu to Assistant Registrar Ann Loomis ("Loomis") because Loomis was a "Designated School Official"2 ("DSO") for the Immigration and Naturalization Service ("INS") at the College. At a meeting on September 30, 1994, Loomis explained to Liu that she would need to submit a new Form I-20 to the INS to resolve the problem with her immigration status. Loomis also told Liu that as a graduate student, she would have to speak with Striuli, who was the DSO who handled the immigration affairs of graduate students. Striuli, a tenured professor in the Department of Modern Languages who was hired by the College nine years earlier, was also the College's International Student Advisor ("ISA") at that time, a post which required him to act as a liaison between foreign students and the College community. Liu, however, had never met Striuli prior to October 3, 1994.

At that meeting with Liu, Loomis telephoned Striuli and informed him that she would be referring a graduate student with a visa problem to him. On October 3, 1994, Liu met Striuli for the first time. They met for several hours in Striuli's office on campus to discuss Liu's immigration status. The facts of the relationship, beginning with the events of the initial meeting between Striuli and Liu on October 3, are sharply disputed. For the purposes of this motion, however, the Court will relate the remainder of the facts as they have been alleged by Liu in her deposition evidence, mindful that Striuli objects to the accuracy of most of what Liu poses as fact.

At this October 3 meeting, Striuli prepared, signed, and handed over to Liu a Form I-20. Liu also signed the form at the meeting. According to Liu, Striuli informed her that her immigration problems made her "technically illegal," that she could be deported, and that he was the only official at the College who could help her maneuver through the "tricky" procedures of the INS. When Liu began to cry, Striuli sat next to her and stroked her thigh. Later in the meeting, Striuli told her that he would have to write a "moral character letter" on her behalf to the INS. In order to do so, Striuli said, he would have to get to know her better. Striuli then asked Liu several times if she would go out with him. Liu declined each request.

In the days following that first meeting, Striuli repeatedly asked Liu to go out with him. He had obtained her class and work schedules and contacted her at home and at work. Striuli explained to her that in order to write the moral character letter necessary for the visa application, they needed to spend time together. Liu finally relented and the two met at a bar sometime between October 3 and October 13. At the bar, Striuli kissed Liu and stroked her thigh. Liu does not allege that she specifically objected in any way to these actions.

Sometime prior to October 13, 1994, Liu met with Professor Richard Deasey ("Deasey"), a member of the faculty in the History Department, and Striuli regarding the delay in her visa application. Deasey testified at his deposition that Liu was tense at the meeting and felt great anxiety about her immigration dilemma. Liu claims that throughout early October, Striuli repeatedly told her that she could be deported because of her illegal status. Dr. McCaffrey recalls Liu telling her during this time period that she was sure that she would be deported. At the meeting, Deasey asked Striuli why Liu had not yet received a new visa. Striuli laid the blame on the failure of the INS to provide him with the proper forms for the application process. Deasey later explained that he found Striuli's answers evasive and that he had the impression that Striuli was not fulfilling his duties as DSO adequately.

On October 13, 1994, Liu alleges that Striuli raped her for the first time. That evening, Striuli telephoned Liu at home and informed her that he would visit her after his class. After Liu told him that she would be busy that evening, Striuli insisted that he see her that evening. Striuli arrived at Liu's apartment later that night. Liu had turned off the lights in her apartment in an attempt to trick Striuli into believing that she was not at home. Undeterred, Striuli rapped on her door and demanded entrance. When Liu opened the door, Striuli shoved her to the floor, tore off her outer and under garments and raped Liu, all the while repeating: "you want this." After the rape, Liu discovered that she had vaginal bleeding. Striuli, mentioning his friendship with Fr. McGonigle, Vice President of Academic Affairs, threatened to have her expelled from the College if she reported the rape. Striuli also claimed to have the power as ISA to deport her. Liu reports that soon thereafter she "blacked out."

Liu alleges that she was raped by Striuli again sometime between October 13 and October 20, 1994 and yet a third time on October 20, the day she went to a gynecologist and began to use birth control pills. Liu contends that she never willingly engaged in any intimate acts with Striuli over the course of their relationship.

In November 1994, Liu's immigration problem was resolved. Deasey received a form from his son, an INS official, in early November which he believed was the proper application form for Liu's new visa. Some time prior to November 14, Liu met with Striuli and signed a letter to the INS drafted by him. Liu met with an INS official on November 14 and was told then that her visa had been reinstated.

Liu alleges that Striuli's abuse continued even after her immigration problem was settled. Between November 14, 1994 and July 4, 1995, Liu alleges that Striuli forced her to have sex with him "at least one hundred times." She alleges that Striuli abused her verbally, by implying that he could kill her, and...

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