New Cases and Developments

NACUA's Legal Resources staff summarizes current higher education cases and developments and provides the full text of selected cases to members. New cases and developments are archived here for up to 12 months.  Cases provided by Fastcase, Inc.

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Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Due Process; Equal Protection; Constitutional Issues

John Doe v. Miami University, et al. (6th Cir. Feb. 9, 2018)

Opinion affirming-in-part and reversing-in-part the district court’s grant of Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff was suspended from Miami University (MU) after a hearing panel found him responsible for violating MU’s Student Conduct Regulations. Plaintiff brought Title IX claims against Defendants under theories of erroneous outcome, selective enforcement, deliberate indifference, and hostile environment, and section 1983 claims alleging deprivations of substantive due process, procedural due process, and equal protection. The court found that Plaintiff’s erroneous outcome claim could proceed, reasoning that Plaintiff plead facts to (1) cast “some articulable doubt on the accuracy” of the proceedings and (2) implicate gender bias.  The court also allowed Plaintiff’s equal protection claim to proceed based upon the inferences of gender discrimination and allowed Plaintiff’s procedural due process claim to proceed based on allegations of bias and a lack of access to the evidence.   

Race and National Origin Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity; Equal Protection; Constitutional Issues

Reeves v. Shawnee State University, et al. (S.D. Ohio Jan. 29, 2018)

Order granting Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment. Shawnee State University (SSU) dismissed Plaintiff, an African-American nursing student, from its program for failing his clinical internship at Southern Ohio Medical Center (SOMC). SSU policy precluded Plaintiff from re-enrolling in the program because he had already successfully re-enrolled after failing a first-year course. Plaintiff alleged race discrimination and violation of the equal protection clause under federal and Ohio law by SSU, SSU administrators, SOMC, and two SOMC internship supervisors. The court found that Plaintiff could not establish a prima facie claim of race discrimination against SSU because he could not show that similarly-situated white nursing students were treated more favorably than him. The court also found that qualified immunity protected SSU administrators from Plaintiff’s claims. 

Equal Protection; Due Process; Constitutional Issues

Elansari v. Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law, et al. (M.D. Pa. Jan. 26, 2018)

Memorandum granting-in-part and denying-in-part Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a former law student at Pennsylvania State University (PSU)’s Dickinson School of Law, who proceeds pro se, alleged a class-of-one equal protection claim and violations of his substantive and procedural rights under the Fourteenth Amendment following his two-year suspension from PSU for recreational and medicinal use of marijuana, which Plaintiff now alleges PSU has altered to an indefinite ban from the campus. Adopting the magistrate judge’s report and recommendation in its entirety, the court dismissed: 1) Plaintiff’s class-of-one equal protection claim because he did not proffer a similarly-situated individual, 2) Plaintiff’s substantive due process claim because “continued enrollment in a graduate level program at an academic institution is [not] a protected property interest,” and 3) Plaintiff’s claims under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act because they were beyond the scope of the amended pleadings the court granted. The court further adopted the magistrate judge’s recommendation that Plaintiff’s procedural due process claim—relating to his indefinite ban from PSU’s campus—should proceed. 

Title IX; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; First Amendment & Free Speech; Equal Protection; Due Process; Constitutional Issues

Radwan v. University of Connecticut Board of Trustees, et al. (D. Conn. Dec. 14, 2017)

Order granting in part and denying in part Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a female University of Connecticut (UConn) student and recipient of an athletic scholarship proceeding pro se, alleged that UConn violated Title IX, her First Amendment rights, the equal protection clause, and procedural due process—as well state law violations for breach of contract and negligent infliction of emotion distress—after UConn revoked her scholarship for an “obscene gesture” she made to a television camera after winning a game. In particular, Plaintiff argued that similarly situated male athletes engaged in similar acts without having their scholarships revoked.  The court found that the Eleventh Amendment protected UConn and Individual Defendants in their official capacities from Plaintiff’s claims under section 1983 and protected UConn from Plaintiff’s state law claims. However, the court allowed Plaintiff’s Title IX claim against UConn and Plaintiff’s section 1983 claims against Individual Defendants in their individual capacities to proceed. 

Equal Protection; Race and National Origin Discrimination; Constitutional Issues

The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, et al. v. Maryland Higher Education, et al. (D. Md. Nov. 8, 2017)

Order appointing a Special Master to develop a Remedial Plan. Plaintiff is a coalition of prospective students, current students, and alumni of Maryland’s historically black institutions (HBIs) that successfully showed violations of Title VI and the Equal Protection Clause by the State of Maryland, specifically that “unnecessary program duplication within Maryland’s system of higher education continues to have segregative effects for which the State has no sound educational justification.” Presently before the court were remedial plans proposed by both parties. In reviewing the proposed remedies under the legal framework of United States v. Fordice, the court determined that neither party’s proposed remedies were “sufficiently practicable, educationally sound, and likely to achieve the greatest possible reduction in segregative effects to justify an order of their imposition.”  While concluding that unique, high-demand programs would reduce the segregative effects of unnecessary program duplication, the court rejected Plaintiffs’ proposal to transfer unique programs from TWIs to HBIs, finding that the proposal would negatively impact student recruitment and faculty retention at TWIs, threaten institutional accreditation, and harm institutions’ reputations. The court will appoint a Special Master to develop and monitor a remedial plan to include the creation of new, high-demand programs at HBIs and provide HBIs with funding for student recruitment, financial aid, marketing, and related initiatives.

Equal Protection; Constitutional Issues

Javed and Wasif v. City University of New York (September 29, 2017)

Memorandum and Order granting Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff Javed, a former employee of City University of New York (CUNY), along with his wife, Plaintiff Wasif, alleged that CUNY discriminated against Javed based on his national origin and religion in violation of his rights under procedural due process, the Equal Protection Clause, Title VII, and state law, after his work visa expired while institutional disciplinary proceedings for Neglect of Duty and Incompetence were pending against him. In addition to dismissing much of the Complaint due to abandoned claims and sovereign immunity, the court also found that Plaintiff Javed failed to show that he was deprived of any constitutional right, plead any facts supporting his conclusory allegation that he was denied “equal protection,” or offer credible evidence suggesting Defendant’s reason for terminating him was pretextual.  Rather, the court found that Plaintiff Javed’s failure to perform the basic functions of his job was sufficient to explain his discipline, and his ultimate termination was mandatory under U.S. immigration law due to his expired immigration status.

Sex Discrimination; Retaliation; Title IX; Equal Protection; Constitutional Issues

Feminist Majority Foundation v. University of Mary Washington, et al. (E.D. Va. September 19, 2017)

Opinion granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a student-run feminist organization, sued the University of Mary Washington (UMW) for discrimination and retaliation under Title IX and deprivation of constitutional rights under the Equal Protection Clause, following cyberbullying of its organizational members on Yik Yak—a social media application that allows users to post anonymous comments. Plaintiff requested, among other things, that UMW disable Yik Yak from its wireless network due to increasing harassment targeting specific members, while UMW contended that it could not disable Yik Yak due to First Amendment concerns. In dismissing Plaintiffs’ deliberate indifference claim, and citing Davis v. Montgomery County Bd. of Educ., the court found that UMW could not, as a matter of law, be subjected to liability for anonymous Yik Yak posts, since UMW neither “exercise[d] substantial control over . . . the harasser,” nor did UMW exercise control “over the context in which the known harassment occur[d].”  Moreover, Plaintiff neither identified a retaliatory action nor similarly situated students that were treated more favorably than Plaintiffs.

Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity; Equal Protection; Constitutional Issues; Due Process

Peace Esonwune v. Regents of the University of California (N.D. Cal. September 12, 2017)

Order dismissing complaint without leave to amend. Plaintiff is a disabled, female, African American of Nigerian heritage enrolled in the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) School of Pharmacy. She alleged claims under the First and Fourteenth Amendment, the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act (RA), Title IX, and California constitutional law, arising from alleged discrimination based on race, disability, and sex.  Despite liberally construing Plaintiff’s pro se pleadings, the court found Plaintiff’s ADA and RA claims failed because she did not allege that the University’s accommodations were insufficient, Plaintiff’s due process claim failed for failure to allege insufficient process, and Plaintiff’s other constitutional claims against the Regents were barred under sovereign immunity. Turning to Plaintiff’s claims against Individual Defendants, the court found insufficient facts to support her claims of gender discrimination under Title IX and the equal protection clause, as well as Plaintiff’s right to petition the government to redress her grievances under the First and Fourteenth Amendment. The court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s remaining California claims.