Recent Decisions-Universities and Other Institutions of Higher Learning

Journal of Law and Education, October 2001 | Go to article overview

Recent Decisions-Universities and Other Institutions of Higher Learning


Plaintiffs sued state university and various university officials asserting violation of civil rights. A state university adopted an affirmative action program and used race as a factor in admission decisions. Held: For the plaintiffs. The college's race-conscious admissions criteria was motivated by a desire to achieve diversity. The race-conscious admission policies were not a narrowly-tailored means of achieving a compelling governmental interest in remedying the present effects of past discrimination. Therefore, the policies violated equal protection clause. Gratz v. Bollinger, 135 F. Supp. 2d 790 (E.D. Mich. 2001).

Student sued faculty members, alleging deprivation of constitutionally-protected property and liberty interests. Faculty members informed student she would be permitted to undertake the practicum if student agreed to disclose her manic-depressive condition to the site supervisor. Student refused to make the disclosure. Held: For the student in part and the faculty members in part. There was a constitutionally protected property right in continuing the student's course of study and the faculty members were not entitled to qualified immunity. However, the student's complaint did not set forth any statement concerning a liberty interest. Powell v. Cooper, 622 N.W. 2d 265 (Wis. 2001).

Community college appealed injunction ordering professor to be reinstated. The professor was suspended for one term due to his use of vulgar language in the classroom not germane to course content. He also circulated a student's sexual harassment complaint (with the student's name deleted) and wrote an open response to the letter, which he distributed around campus and to the media. The professor sought to overturn the suspension because it violated his First Amendment rights. Held: For the college. The professor's First Amendment rights were outweighed by the college's legal obligation to guarantee the rights of students to learn in an environment free of sexual harassment and hostility. Bonnell v. Lorenzo, 241 EM 800 (6th Cir. 2001).

Former professor sues university official alleging violation of First Amendment rights. A university official removed posters advertising the upcoming speech of a former professor from the school bulletin board. The professor claimed his First Amendment rights to free speech were violated by the removal of the posters. Held: For the professor Posters designed to convey information constitute a form of free speech. The university official violated the professors' First Amendment right to free speech when he removed the posters. Giebel v. Sylvester, 244 EM 1182 (9th Cir. 2001).

Student sued professors, dean and university for sexual harassment under Title IX, deprivation of constitutional rights, several state law claims, and common law torts. The professor allegedly committed sexual harassment when he made inappropriate comments in front of his class. A student reported the professor's conduct to dean and then to a supervising professor's office, but was ignored. Held: For student in part and for University, professor, Dean, and supervising professor in part. The Title IX claim was appropriate against the university because it receives federal funds; since the individual defendants do not receive federal funding, a Title IX claim could not be maintained against them. The student could maintain equal protection claims against individuals since Title IX does not provide extensive remedy against individuals. Tort claims and state law claims against university were dismissed because New York maintains immunity to state common law torts in federal court. Hayut v. State Univ. of N.Y, 127 F. Supp. 2d 333 (D. N.D. N.Y. 2000).

Former college student, expelled for fighting, sued college and individual employees for racial discrimination under Civil Rights Act and for contract breach and tortious interference with contractual relations. The student, a Caucasian, was involved in a physical and verbal altercation with another student, who was of Asian descent. …

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