Judge Sides with Texas Southern in Discrimination Suit - Higher Education
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Judge Sides with Texas Southern in Discrimination Suit

by Eric Freedman


U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal found no factual basis for the suit by Steven Manley against the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University.

U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal found no factual basis for the suit by Steven Manley against the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University.

An African-American applicant who was repeatedly rejected by the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University has lost his race, gender and disability discrimination case. A federal judge in Houston found no factual basis for the suit by Steven Manley, who asserted that “the role of an applicant’s undergraduate grade point average and Law School Admissions Test scores made the admissions and recruiting policies discriminatory.” Manley had unsuccessfully sought admission between 2008 and 2014. The university defended his rejections on the basis of low grades and LSAT scores. Manley’s Equal Protection, Title VI and Title IX suit sought $800,000 in damages and a court order admitting him to the law school. He also wanted a judge to mandate that the law school “use an alternative to the LSAT that is less discriminatory in its effects upon minority groups.” In her decision, U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal distinguished between historically White and historically Black institutions. “The admissions and recruiting policies Manley challenges are not rooted in the state’s prior dual system.” Rosenthal wrote, referring to the former system of racial segregation among public higher education institutions. “Manley alleges that the school uses ‘the LSAT as a tool of discrimination in its admission and selection processes’ and ‘maintains an intentional and discriminatory’ policy. But he fails to allege facts that, if proven, would support finding that the law school’s admissions officers rely on the LSAT for the purpose of discriminating against individuals of Manley’s race, sex and disability status.” As for gender bias and Manley’s assertion that the law school predominantly recruits women as a policy to exclude African-American men, Rosenthal said he offered no facts to support an inference of discriminatory intent. Title VII suit rejected A federal judge has tossed out a Title VII gender discrimination and retaliation suit by the fired director of recreational sports at Prairie View A&M University, finding that the university demonstrated a non-discriminatory reason for termination based on her poor job performance. In January 2011, Chondra Johnson was hired for the position, which was under the associate vice president of student affairs, according to the decision. That made her one of 10 director-members of the Student Activities Leadership Team, all but one of them also women. Johnson claims that shortly after taking the job, the engineering dean, who was a close friend of the associate vice president, approached her to have an extra-marital relationship. She didn’t report the unwanted overture. She alleges that the associate vice president became hostile to her after she rejected the dean’s advances. According to the suit, that hostility included unwarranted disciplinary action, describing her as a “con-artist” and “swindler,” a low performance rating, critical comments about her weight and ordering her to look at his buttocks. In addition, Johnson received a five-day suspension for purported performance problems, including absences, tardiness to meetings and telling a subordinate to falsify a timesheet, the decision said. The university terminated her in April 2013 following a poor performance evaluation that rated her “below expectations” or lower in eight of 14 evaluation categories. Her suit included allegations of sexual harassment by the engineering dean. Even if such harassment had occurred, Prairie View argued, her failure to report the dean’s conduct undermines any link between rejection of his sexual advances and her termination two years later. Senior U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt in Houston granted the university’s motion to dismiss the case. Even if Johnson had presented sufficient evidence that Prairie Valley had engaged in discriminatory or retaliatory conduct, the university presented evidence of its legitimate, non-retaliatory and non-discriminatory reasons to fire her, Hoyt said. “Johnson has not refuted her suspension or 2012 performance review with any competent evidence to show that the proffered reasons for termination were pretextual and that gender was a determinative factor in her firing,” he wrote in his opinion. He noted that Johnson had “admitted to most of the infractions that led to her poor review.” Foothill College prevails Foothill College has won a race and disability discrimination case by a part-time student who failed an online course and was accused of plagiarizing an assignment. The suit came from Maurice Davis, a 73-year-old African-American disabled veteran with law and medical degrees, He was enrolled in an associate’s degree in music program at the Los Altos Hills, California school. During an online music history course in spring 2014, Davis became sick during the final exam, and the instructor denied him the chance to retake the test, according to the suit. It also alleged that the instructor wrongly determined that a partial paper he submitted about musician Louis Armstrong was plagiarized and that, as a result, a college administrator unjustifiably placed a hold on his academic record. Davis denied any plagiarism and refused to sign a document that would remove the hold because it included a pledge not to plagiarize again. The suit accused the college of denial of due process and race and disability bias. In dismissing the case, U.S. District Judge Beth Freeman in San Jose said that even if Davis had registered with the campus Disability Resource Center, he didn’t show that he’d requested a reasonable accommodation that included retaking of exams or that he sought the center’s assistance in asking to retake the final. “More problematically, he does not even allege that he needed to re-take the final as an accommodation for his qualifying disability,” only that he became sick while taking it, Freeman wrote in her decision. There was even less factual basis for his racial discrimination allegation, Freedman said. Davis “all but admitted an inability to identify concrete and distinct acts of racial discrimination.  Instead, he asserts that he can ‘feel and smell racism when it rears its ugly head.’ While he may unquestionably feel that he has been wronged, this court cannot let his claim go forward on naked assertions devoid of facts showing that the college may be liable,” she said. Last, she found that Foothill had provided Davis with the necessary due process in handling the plagiarism charge. Even if the enrollment hold deprived him of some legally protected property or liberty interest, the college notified him of the reason for the hold, let him meet with the administration about it and gave him the opportunity to request a grievance hearing.

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