home

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.

Dates
Government Relations; Authorizations & Regulations

Department of Education Announcement Regarding an Open Meeting of the HBCU Capital Financing Advisory Board (Nov. 15, 2017)

Announcement issued by the U.S. Department of Education providing notice of an open meeting of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Capital Financing Advisory Board (Board) to provide advice to the Secretary as to the capital needs of HBCUs and the implementation of construction financing through the HBCU Capital Financing Program. Interested parties are invited to provide public comment regarding the Board’s work and the Capital Financing Program on Saturday, December 2, 2017. 

11/16/2017
read
Disability Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Faki v. The Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama (N.D. Ala. November 9, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion granting Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, a non-tenured instructor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) proceeding pro se, alleged that Defendants discriminated against her on the basis of her disability in violation of the Rehabilitation Act and retaliated against her for complaining about “discriminatory conduct regarding disability” by terminating her. The court found that Plaintiff could not establish a prima facie case of disability discrimination because Plaintiff received unfavorable student evaluations long before she reported a disability or requested an accommodation, nor could she allege sufficient evidence to demonstrate pretext against Defendant’s legitimate, non-discriminatory explanation for her termination, which cited student complaints about Plaintiff’s poor teaching performance and UAB’s decision to reduce Spanish courses due to low enrollment. 

11/16/2017
read
Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration; Constitutional Issues; Practice of Higher Education Law

Fordan, et al. v. San Francisco State University, et al. (N.D. Cal. November 9, 2017)

Order granting Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiffs, a married couple, brought section 1983 claims against San Francisco State University (SFSU) and SFSU faculty for allegedly violating their civil rights under California law, the Fifth Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution after the wife enrolled in a master’s program at SFSU following purported faculty assurances that she would finish the program in two to three years. In the four years in which she was enrolled, she did not graduate, purportedly because her thesis supervisor and SFSU faculty placed her in a seven-year program. The court found that Plaintiffs’ claims were barred by claim preclusion due to their prior state action that asserted identical claims against the same parties and resulted in a final judgment on the merits. The court further provided that Plaintiffs’ claims against SFSU fail because SFSU is not a “person” within the meaning of section 1983 and the President of SFSU could not be held liable under a respondeat superior theory because she was not personally involved in the matter, nor did she breach a duty that was the proximate cause of Plaintiffs’ injuries. 

11/16/2017
read
Race and National Origin Discrimination; Age Discrimination; Disability Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Sims v. The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Nov. 1, 2017)

Order granting Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, a sixty-four year old African American custodian for Columbia University (CU), alleged that CU discriminated against him based on race, age, and disability,  created a hostile work environment, and retaliated against him for complaining about discrimination in violation of New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL). The court found that Plaintiff failed to show that the terms and conditions of his employment were discriminatory or that similarly-situated custodians not in Plaintiff's protected classes were treated more favorably, even under the more liberal “mixed-motive” standard of New York state law that requires Plaintiffs to show unlawful discrimination as just one, among many, of the motivating factors behind an employer’s adverse action. Furthermore, the court found that the facts supporting Plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim—namely, racial epithets made on three occasions over nine years and purported age-related statements from his supervisor and co-workers—were either isolated incidents that did not pervade the work environment or were too vague to infer bias. Last, the court found that Plaintiff’s retaliation claim could not proceed because Plaintiff's sole complaint was investigated by CU and the subsequent retaliatory actions he alleged were not causally connected.

11/14/2017
read
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.

11/13/2017
read
Faculty & Staff; Retaliation

Ackerson v. The Rector and Visitors of The University of Virginia (W.D. Va. Nov. 7, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion denying Defendant’s Partial Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a Project Manager for the University of Virginia (UVA), originally had a one-year term of employment with UVA that was later renewed several times over the course of five years. In June of 2017, shortly after she filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charge of sex and disability discrimination, UVA reminded Plaintiff by letter that her one-year contract was set to expire. Plaintiff was not reappointed as she had been in prior years. Plaintiff alleged that UVA’s decision not to renew her contract was motivated by retaliatory animus in response to her filing the EEOC charge.  Plaintiff brought numerous claims against UVA, but at issue was whether the court had subject matter jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff’s retaliation claim because it was not originally alleged in her EEOC charge and therefore, Defendant argued, Plaintiff had not exhausted her administrative remedies under Title VII. Because the 4th Circuit recognizes an exception to the exhaustion requirement, which allows Plaintiffs to raise for the first time in federal court retaliation claims stemming from a filing of an EEOC charge, the court looked to whether Defendant’s June 2017 letter was an adverse employment action taken in retaliation for Plaintiff’s protected activity or a “mere reminder” of a prior determination. Because UVA previously set term limits on Plaintiff’s employment contract but consistently renewed the contract over a period of years, the court concluded that Plaintiff sufficiently alleged that the nonrenewal of her contract was borne out of filing the EEOC charge. 

11/9/2017
read
Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration; Practice of Higher Education Law

Callahan v. Gateway Community College (D. Conn. Nov. 6, 2017)

Order Dismissing Complaint Without Prejudice. Plaintiff, a former employee of Gateway Community College (GCC) and proceeding pro se, alleged that GCC discriminated and retaliated against her when GCC terminated her employment. The court found that Plaintiff’s complaint failed to allege facts that would give Defendant fair notice to defend against the claims. 

11/9/2017
read
Retaliation; First Amendment & Free Speech; Faculty & Staff; Due Process; Constitutional Issues

Marmarchi v. Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, et al. (7th Cir. Nov. 7, 2017)

Order affirming Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a doctoral student at the University of Illinois (UI), brought claims against UI, his advisor, and various other UI employees under the First Amendment, due process clause, a number of employment discrimination laws, and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) when he was removed from the doctoral program, purportedly for telling an Associate Dean that he intended to file a “whistleblower complaint” about “fraud by [the] faculties.” The court found that Plaintiff’s alleged facts for his First Amendment retaliation claim were insufficient because he did not specify what he said to the Associate Dean and without more, the court could not determine if Plaintiff had engaged in protected speech. The court also dismissed Plaintiff’s due process claim because Plaintiff did not provide the contract terms that UI violated and further, the process Plaintiff sought under UI’s handbook was discretionary. The court dismissed all of Plaintiff’s other claims because Plaintiff failed to develop them on appeal. 

11/9/2017
read
12345678910...>>