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Bougher v. University of Pittsburgh

filed as amended october 24 1989.: August 15, 1989.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh), D.C. Docket No. Civil 86-1096.

Stapleton, Scirica, and Rosenn, Circuit Judges.

Author: Rosenn


ROSENN, Circuit Judge.

Appellant Ruth Ann Bougher, a student at the University of Pittsburgh, raises issues on this appeal pertaining to the application of "hostile environment" sexual harassment principles developed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e, et seq. (West 1981), to alleged sexual discrimination in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C.A. § 1681 (West 1978). Her four-count complaint also alleges sexual harassment by one of her professors at the University in violation of the Reconstruction Era Civil Rights Acts, 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 1983 and 1985(3) (West 1981), and a state claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The district court rejected her claims, granting summary judgment for the University and the individual defendants,*fn1 and dismissing the complaint. Appellant appealed to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C.A. § 1291 (West Supp. 1989). We affirm, although not entirely on the same grounds relied on by the district court.


This case has its genesis in a relationship between Bougher and University professor, Trevor Melia, the exact nature of which is in some dispute. What is known is that Bougher was an undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh from 1973 through December 1978 when she received her undergraduate degree in speech. During the winter term of 1976, Bougher took her only course with Melia. After that time, Bougher took no other course with Melia, nor was Melia her university-appointed advisor, though Bougher contends that Melia informally assumed that role during both her undergraduate and graduate career. Following her graduation in 1978, Bougher enlisted in the Air Force Officer's Training School for eight months. After receiving an honorable discharge, she returned to the University in September 1979 and enrolled in the graduate school East Asian Interdisciplinary Program.*fn2 Melia taught none of her courses in this program.

Bougher claims that although Melia initially took a special interest in her academic career, that interest became sexual in nature in the spring of 1976 following the conclusion of her course with Melia. Defendants describe the ensuing relationship as consensual, one that "typif[ies] a 'dating' relationship." Bougher contends, however, that Melia sexually assaulted her and subsequently sexually coerced her. Bougher further alleges that, in response to her efforts to end the relationship, Melia's behavior became abusive and harassing. As a result of this behavior, Bougher claims she became depressed and suicidal for which she eventually sought psychiatric therapy.

Upon her return to the University, Bougher alleges that, although Melia was a member of a different department at the University, he insisted that he become involved in her graduate program, promising her a teaching assistantship and the opportunity to co-author an academic paper with him as well as other publishing opportunities, and offering to act as her informal academic advisor. She further alleges that Melia at this time again coerced or harassed her into a sexual relationship. She characterizes their relationship as one in which he would make drunken and abusive overtures to her until she felt compelled to comply with his sexual demands. She also claims that he became physically violent towards her. As a result of this "constant harassment," Bougher contends that she was unable to maintain her academic work, eventually forcing her to discontinue her graduate program in 1982, and that she further suffered both physical and emotional distress.

Although Bougher claims that she complained to another faculty member about Melia as early as 1981, she did not seek the aid of Dr. Coffey, the Director of Affirmative Action, until February 1982. Rather than provide any assistance, Bougher alleges that Dr. Coffey became abusive and hostile towards her. Bougher also complained to Jerome Martin, Ph.D., an assistant to the University Chancellor, Wesley Posvar, who informed her that Dr. Coffey's decision was final.

The sexual relationship between Bougher and Melia ended sometime in January 1983, and Bougher admits that Melia has not made any sexual propositions to her since December 1983. Bougher Dep. Tr. at 357-60, App. at Tab G. Bougher contends, however, that after their sexual relationship ended, Melia, with the aid of another University employee, continued to harass and to threaten her. These alleged incidents ranged from threatening her with a knife and acid to a series of threatening phone calls to merely sitting near her in a public restaurant and staring.

In the summer of 1984, Bougher returned to Dr. Coffey to institute formal action against Melia. The matter was referred to Brenda Pardini, a staff member of the Student Judicial Affairs Office. Pardini drafted a complaint which Bougher refused to sign. Bougher informed Pardini that she had elected to pursue her complaint through the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) rather than through the University system. On July 26, 1984, Bougher filed a complaint with the PHRC.

On May 27, 1986, Bougher filed a pro se complaint in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. In her second amended complaint, filed with the aid of counsel, Bougher asserted claims under Title IX, and 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 1983 and 1985(3), as well as a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress against Melia in his official and individual capacity. Bougher likewise asserted claims against the University, Chancellor Posvar, and Dr. Coffey, also in their official and individual capacities under Title IX and 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 1983 and 1985(3). With respect to these defendants, Bougher specifically alleges that the University and the individual defendants failed to establish and implement policies in accordance with Title IX which would prohibit gender based discrimination, failed to respond appropriately to her individual complaint against Melia, and thereby permitted to develop an environment hostile to women in violation of Title IX.

The district court disagreed with Bougher's contentions, ultimately granting defendants summary judgment on all counts and dismissing the complaint in its entirety with prejudice. With respect to Title IX, the court found that Bougher failed to allege a quid pro quo claim because she did not allege that either the University, Melia, or the other defendants excluded or denied her benefits on the basis of her sex. The court also rejected Bougher's contentions that the "hostile environment" theory of sexual ...

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