Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Federal Judge Orders Trial in Adelphi University Bias Lawsuit

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Federal Judge Orders Trial in Adelphi University Bias Lawsuit

Article excerpt

Adelphi University faces trial this summer in a civil rights lawsuit by a former Haitian=American graduate student who contends that one of her nursing courses was taught in a segregated classroom.

The suit by Marie Jacques also contends that Adelphi was racially motivated when it wrongfully dropped her from its adult nurse practitioner program one semester before she would have completed her master's degree.

The Garden City, N.Y., university denies the allegations and asserted in court papers that it "acted reasonably and in good faith." Adelphi also said students in Dr. Darylann Ficken's course voluntarily self-segregated and that the program had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason to drop Jacques because she received a C+ in that class.

U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler rejected Adelphi's attempt to toss out the suit and ordered the case to proceed to trial in June.

"Despite the defendants' explanation as to their conduct, which a jury could certainly accept, a rational jury could also ultimately find that Jacques was subject to unlawful discrimination," Wexler wrote in the decision.

"The issue is not whether the institution acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner, but whether the challenged academic decision was substantially motivated by race," he said.

Jacques, who is a licensed registered nurse with a bachelor's degree in nursing, enrolled in the program in 2006.

In spring 2009, she received a C+ in a course taught by Ficken, head of the program, according to court documents. The C+ was based on her failure of all three multiple-choice tests, which made up 75 percent of the course grade, and on her class participation.

Among her 10 classmates, one other student, who is Hispanic, failed the same exams and received the same C+ grade. He and Jacques had nearly identical GPAs, court documents said. The other two Haitian-American students in the class passed the course.

Under Adelphi's policies for its graduate nursing program, students who receive below a Bin any course can be dismissed. …

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