Rubin v. Ikenberry

Decision Date29 May 1996
Docket NumberNo. 92-1160.,92-1160.
PartiesLouis RUBIN, Plaintiff, v. Stanley O. IKENBERRY, Morton Weir, Robert Berdahl, P. David Pearson, Theodore Manolakes, and Brian Braun, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Central District of Illinois




Charles S. Watson, Feldman & Wasser, Springfield, IL, for plaintiff.

Michael R. Cornyn, Thomas, Mamer & Haughey, Champaign, IL, for defendants.


MIHM, Chief Judge.

Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment # 19. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is GRANTED.


The facts of this case are voluminous and will be summarized in their most skeletal form. Plaintiff, Louis Rubin ("Rubin"), is a tenured professor in the College of Education of the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois ("University"). (Amended Complaint ("Complaint"), ¶ 3.) Defendants are Stanley O. Ikenberry (President of the University system), Morton Weir (Chancellor of the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University), Robert Berdahl (Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs of the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University), P. David Pearson (Dean in the College of Education of the University), and Theodore Manolakes (Associate Dean in the College of Education and Acting Department Head of the Department of Instruction and Curriculum of the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University). Id., ¶¶ 4-8. Defendant Brian Braun, the husband of one of the grievants in the sexual harassment proceeding giving rise to this lawsuit, was dismissed with prejudice on November 24, 1993. (Minute Entry, 11/24/93, granting Motion to Voluntarily Dismiss.)

In January 1990, Rubin was teaching "Methods of Teaching Social Studies in the Elementary Schools," Elementary Education 345 (Complaint, ¶ 20.) The class consisted of 33 students, all of whom were female. Id., Exh. G. On January 29, 1990, two students, Terre Braun and Kathy Anderson, filed sexual harassment grievances against Rubin on account of his sexual commentary, inquiries, and jokes during class. Id., Exh. C.* Rubin does not deny making the offending comments; rather, he maintains that when they are evaluated in the proper context, they are pedagogically correct. (Response to Reply, p. 3.)

A copy of Braun's grievance is attached to the Complaint, which alleges that Anderson's grievance is "substantially similar." (Complaint, ¶ 39.) Rubin received a copy of the grievances the same day. Id., ¶ 37, Exh. C; Rubin Dep., p. 51. He also received notice of a January 30, 1990 meeting to which he was invited to bring counsel. (Complaint, ¶ 42; Rubin Dep., Exh. 1.) He attended without counsel. (Complaint, ¶ 46.) Present at that meeting were Defendants Pearson and Manolakes and Steven Veasie, University legal counsel at the Champaign-Urbana campus of the University. Id., ¶ 49. The parties dispute the extent to which Rubin had the opportunity to explain himself at that time. Id., ¶¶ 50-51; Memo. in Opp., p. 4 (stating that Rubin was given only "an opportunity to give brief reasons for having made the statements" that he made); contra Manolakes Dep., pp. 132-34; Ken Anderson Dep., p. 57; Veasie Dep., pp. 78-80.

Rubin was relieved from teaching Elementary Education 345 with two of four weeks of the course remaining. (Complaint, ¶ 57.) On January 31, 1990, Rubin thanked Berdahl and other university officers by letter for allowing him to explain his teaching approach and to express his regret over the problem he had caused. (Rubin Dep., Exh. 3.) He also wrote that the assignment of a different professor to the remainder of the course was most appropriate. Id.

On February 27, 1990, Manolakes communicated in writing to each grievant his conclusion that she had been sexually harassed and that her grievance was granted in accordance with the terms of his letter. (Rubin Dep., Exhs. 4, 5.) A February 27, 1990 letter from Pearson to Rubin gives no indication that there had been a ruling on the grievances, nor does the attached February 26, 1990 letter from Manolakes to Pearson. (Rubin Dep., Exh. 6.)

In a March 7, 1990 letter to Pearson, Rubin wrote that he had "learned today that the students' grievance was granted on February 27, or thereabouts." (Rubin Dep., Exh. 7.) On March 8, 1990, Rubin requested from Manolakes, among other items, a copy of the letter granting the grievances. (Rubin Dep., Exh. 8.) On March 27, 1990, Rubin wrote Manolakes that "in my March 8 correspondence, I requested copies of your letter to the student complainants acknowledging sexual harassment." (Def. Exh. 6, filed 11/3/92.) Rubin now alleges that "he did not know that Manolakes' letters included a finding that the grievants had been sexually harassed." (Complaint, ¶ 81.)

On March 12, 1990, Rubin signed a letter written by Manolakes incorporating some of the findings and recommendations of the University's team which had investigated the situation. (Complaint, Exh. I.) This letter does not mention the status of the grievances and specifically makes no reference to Manolakes' letters to the grievants. On March 30, 1990, Rubin's counsel wrote Manolakes that Rubin's "previous letters to you are to be taken as an appeal of your finding of sexual harassment." (Rubin Dep., Exh. 11.)

The University Handbook of Policies and Regulations contains a section entitled "University of Illinois Statement on Sexual Harassment" which defines sexual harassment as:

Any unwanted sexual gesture, physical contact, or statement that a reasonable person would find offensive, humiliating, or any interference with his or her required tasks or career opportunities at the University.

(Complaint, Exh. A.) This section also states that sexual harassment is not tolerated, sanctions will be imposed on a case-by-case basis, and the University will respond to every report of sexual harassment. Id.

According to the Complaint, the University of Illinois Statutes concerning academic freedom state that:

a. It is the policy of the University to maintain and encourage full freedom, within the law, of inquiry, discourse, teaching, research, and publication and to protect any member of the academic staff against influences, from within or without the University, which would restrict him in the exercise of these freedoms in his area of scholarly interest.

(Emphasis added.) Id., ¶ 11.

According to the Complaint, the Academic Staff Handbook, in the section entitled "Academic Freedom and Faculty Responsibility," states that:

Academic freedom is essential to the functioning of a university. It applies to its teaching, research and public service and involves both the faculty and students.
* * * * * *
Faculty are expected to teach their assigned courses in a manner consistent with the scheduled time, course content, and course credit as approved by the faculty. Within these constraints, they are entitled to freedom in the classroom in developing and discussing — according to their areas of competence — the subjects that they are assigned.

(Emphasis added.) Id., ¶ 12.


Summary judgment is proper if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). "The moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law when the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of his case with respect to which he has the burden of proof." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

As to the factual aspect, a defendant's motion for summary judgment must demonstrate, based on the record, an absence of evidence to support the plaintiff's case. Id. "A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest upon mere allegation or denials of his pleading, but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2514, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). The Court draws all justifiable inferences in favor of the non-movant. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 253-55, 106 S.Ct. at 2513.

As a preliminary matter, two counts of the Complaint are no longer viable. Count IX is a federal claim alleging a First Amendment free speech violation. On August 6, 1993, the Court granted summary judgment as to Count IX, which was stricken with prejudice. (Order, 8/6/93, p. 1.)

Count XXVI is an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim against Defendant Braun. On November 24, 1993, Braun was dismissed with prejudice. (Minute Entry, 11/24/93, granting Motion to Voluntarily Dismiss.)

Rubin alleges jurisdiction based on 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343 "as the action is predicated on 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1988" and on pendant jurisdiction for the state claims. (Complaint, ¶ 1.) The Court finds jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1367(a).

I. Counts of the Complaint
A. Substantive Due Process Counts

Nine counts of the Complaint allege violations of substantive due process. Each alleges a violation of substantive due process with respect to a liberty interest in some other alleged right.

Three of the nine, Counts IV, V, and VI, are federal claims. Count IV alleges a violation of substantive due process of Rubin's liberty interest in First Amendment free speech. Count V replaces free speech with academic freedom. Count VI alleges a liberty interest in academic freedom created by state law.

The remaining six substantive due process claims are state claims. Counts XIII, XIV, and XV allege liberty interests in free speech, academic freedom, and academic freedom created by state law. They request declaratory and injunctive relief. Counts XXI, XXII, and XXIII make corresponding claims to XIII, XIV, and XV, but they request...

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