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KELES v. YALE UNIV.

June 8, 1995

RESAT S. KELES, Plaintiff, against YALE UNIVERSITY, DR. KATEPALLI R. SREENIVASAN, AND DR. GARY HALLER, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN E. SPRIZZO

 SPRIZZO, D.J.,

 Plaintiff Resat S. Keles brings this action for, inter alia, breach of contract, breach of an educational agreement and common law fraud. Defendants Yale University ("Yale"), Dr. Katepalli R. Sreenivasan and Dr. Gary Haller move for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and for sanctions pursuant to Rule 11.

 BACKGROUND

 At all times pertinent to this action, Dr. Katepalli R. Sreenivasan was a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Yale. Affidavit of Dr. Katepalli R. Sreenivasan Sworn to November 19, 1993 ("Sreenivasan Aff.") P 1. By letter dated October 16, 1987, plaintiff Resat S. Keles contacted Dr. Sreenivasan regarding the graduate program at Yale. Id. P 2, Exh. A. By letter dated October 23, 1987, Dr. Sreenivasan invited Keles to submit a formal application for admission to the graduate school. Id. P 2, Exh. B.

 In or about November 1987, Keles submitted a formal application for admission to the graduate school for the 1988-1989 academic year. *fn1" Affidavit of Dr. Gary Haller Sworn to November 22, 1993 ("Haller Aff.") P 4, Exh. F. On March 3, 1988, the graduate school rejected the first application. Id. In or about December 1988, Keles submitted a second formal application for admission to the graduate school for the 1989-90 academic year. *fn2" Haller Aff. P 4, Exh. G. On February 17, 1989, the graduate school rejected the second application. Id.

 By letter dated March 22, 1990, Keles submitted additional documentation to Dr. Sreenivasan and expressed concerns regarding his status at Yale. Sreenivasan Aff. P 3, Exh. C. In addition, Keles enclosed a copy of an outstanding offer to the graduate program at the University of Illinois. Id. P 4. By letter dated March 29, 1990, Dr. Sreenivasan advised Keles that there were no openings in the graduate school at Yale. Id. P 4, Exh. D. However, Dr. Sreenivasan offered to accept Keles as a laboratory research assistant for the 1990-91 academic year. Id. Dr. Sreenivasan added that, "if things worked out well at Yale," he would recommend Keles for admission to the graduate school for the 1991-92 academic year. Id. In the end, however, Dr. Sreenivasan advised Keles that his "best course of action might be to accept the University of Illinois offer." Id.

 In September 1990, Keles began working as a laboratory research assistant. *fn3" Defendants' Statement Pursuant to Local Rule 3(g) dated July 13, 1994 ("Deft. 3(g) St.") P 8; Sreenivasan Aff. P 5. Thereafter, because Keles was unable to conceive an independent research project, Dr. Sreenivasan assigned him to work on a research project supervised by David Kyle, a graduate student. Deft. 3(g) St. P 8; Sreenivasan Aff. P 5; Kyle Aff. PP 2-4. The research project, which concerned the suppression of vortex shedding in the wake behind a circular rod, was of no applied or economic value. Deft. 3(g) St. P 8; Sreenivasan Aff. P 14; Kyle Aff. P 4. Shortly thereafter, Kyle and other research assistants complained that Keles lacked requisite mathematical and physics skills and familiarity with basic laboratory instrumentation. Deft. 3(g) St. P 9; Sreenivasan Aff. P 6; Kyle Aff. P 3; Johnson Aff. P 2.

 In the Fall of 1990, Keles submitted a third formal application for admission to the graduate school for the 1991-92 academic year. Haller Aff. P 4, Exh. H. Thereafter, Keles forwarded a proposed recommendation to Dr. Sreenivasan for his signature. *fn4" Sreenivasan Aff. P 7, Exh. E. The proposed recommendation characterized his performance as satisfactory and recommended either a Yale fellowship from the Dean's funds or assistance from Dr. Sreenivasan's funds. Id. Dr. Sreenivasan did not sign the proposed recommendation because he did not consider Keles a viable candidate for the graduate school. Id. On March 3, 1988, the graduate school rejected the third application. Haller Aff. P 4, Exh. H.

 On July 5, 1991, Dr. Sreenivasan and Keles negotiated an informal agreement concerning Keles's continued work as a research assistant. *fn5" Keles Aff. P 12, Exh. C. At that time, Dr. Sreenivasan and Keles agreed that Keles must pass an area examination by December 1991 or the Spring of 1992. Plaintiff's Statement Pursuant to Local Rule 3(g) dated August 15, 1994 P 12; Deft. 3(g) St. P 12; Sreenivasan Aff. P 10; Keles Dep. at 75. An area examination, which is ordinarily administered to graduate students, is employed to assess a student's preparation for research in a chosen field of study. Keles Aff. Exh. F; Sreenivasan Aff. P 13.

 By letter dated August 14, 1991, Dr. Sreenivasan formalized the agreement which permitted Keles to continue working through the Spring 1992 semester. Sreenivasan Aff. P 9, Exh. F. The agreement provided that, "subject to the availability of research money," Keles would receive "a salary equivalent to that of a graduate student" during that time. Id. The agreement also provided that Keles could register for one course per semester during that period. Id. Dr. Sreenivasan also indicated that an area examination was unnecessary. Id. In the end, however, Dr. Sreenivasan advised Keles to apply to other graduate schools so that he would not be "stuck with lack of opportunities". Id.

 In June 1991, the graduate school accepted Keles as a special student for the 1991-92 academic year. Keles Aff. P 8, Exh. B. In addition, Dr. Sreenivasan authorized research funds to pay for a course in the Fall of 1991. Sreenivasan Aff. P 15. Dr. Sreenivasan alleges that, during the semester, Keles failed to attend a number of classes. Id. As a result, Dr. Sreenivasan allegedly declined to authorize additional research funds for a course in the Spring of 1992. Id. According to Keles, he attended the classes and achieved good grades. Keles Aff. P 38. In any event, by letter dated March 10, 1992, the graduate school notified Dr. Sreenivasan that Keles could not receive a salary because he was no longer an enrolled student. Haller Aff. P 8, Exh. I. It is undisputed that Keles was not paid for the last three months of the Spring 1992 semester. Id. P 7.

 Thereafter, Keles submitted a fourth formal application for admission to the graduate school for the 1992-93 academic year. By letter dated October 17, 1991, the graduate school declined to consider the fourth application in accordance with its stated policy, which permits three applications per individual. Haller Aff. P 4, Exh. C. In a follow-up letter, dated January 7, 1992, the graduate school explained the rationale of its policy. Id. P 4, Exh. D. By letter dated February 11, 1992, the graduate school also explained the reasons underlying the three earlier rejections. Id. P 4, Exh. E.

 At all times pertinent to this action, Dr. Gary Haller was Chair of the Council of Engineering and Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Yale. Haller Aff. P 1. By letter dated January 20, 1992, Keles urged Dr. Haller to form a committee to investigate, inter alia, the graduate school's refusal to consider the fourth application. Id. P 2, Exh. A. Based upon his thorough investigation of the matter, Dr. Haller concluded that the appointment of an investigative committee was unnecessary and that ...


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