Universities and Other Institutions of Higher Education

Journal of Law and Education, January 2003 | Go to article overview

Universities and Other Institutions of Higher Education


Constitutional Claims and Civil Rights

University students sued university officials under the Civil Rights Act, alleging unfair punishment. University students were punished pursuant to a university's student disciplinary procedures for allegedly attacking and kicking another student. The students alleged that they suffered multiple deprivations of their constitutional rights when university president imposed on them more severe sanctions than those recommended by student disciplinary board. Held: For the university officials. The university officials did not violate students' due process rights because the president was not the ultimate fact finder. Rather, the president merely reviewed the findings of fact made by the disciplinary board. In addition, the students were afforded a thirteen-hour trial before a student disciplinary body but failed to demonstrate a constitutional injury during the trial. Tigrett v. Rector and Visitors of the Univ. of Va., 290 F3d 620 (4th Cir. 2002).

Former professor sued university alleging gender discrimination in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and retaliation for filing a sex discrimination claim. A professor alleged the university denied her tenure because of her sex and that the university discriminated against her during her employment in the distribution of workload and salary increases. The professor also asserted that the university terminated her in retaliation for filing the discrimination claim. Held: For the university. The professor presented no evidence rising to the level of sexual discrimination. The university did not retaliate against her discrimination claim, because the decision to terminate her was based on recommendations made to the university's president before she filed her claim. McFadden v. St. Univ. of N.Y, Coll. at Brockport, 195 F. Supp.2d 436 (W.D. N.Y. 2002).

University employee brought free speech constitutional claim against the university. The employee claimed that the university transferred her to another position because she disapproved of the university's new admission policy and requested a meeting with the university president. Held: For the employee. Although the university offered evidence that the transfer was based on other legitimate factors, enough suspicious circumstances surrounded the transfer to allow the case to go forward. Also, the substance of the employee's speech and the corrective action of the transfer appeared to be linked. Nethersole v. Bulger, 287 F.3d 15 (1 st Cir. 2002).

Student-athletes, attending a federally funded state university, sued the university, university officials, and university trustees, alleging violations of Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause. A university's board of trustees eliminated men's intercollegiate soccer, tennis and wrestling to comply with the requirements of Title IX. The student-athletes, who were members of these disbanded teams, believed they were denied an opportunity to participate in intercollegiate soccer, tennis and wrestling because of their gender. Held: For the university, university officials and university trustees. In limited circumstances, a gender-based classification favoring one sex can be justified under the Equal Protection clause if it intentionally and directly assists members of the sex that have been disproportionately discriminated against in the past. Moreover, the student-athletes did not have a constitutional right to play intercollegiate athletics. Finally, they did not prove that the university failed to provide equal athletic opportunities by gender. Miami Univ. Wrestling Club v. Miami Univ., 195 F. Supp. 2d 1010 (S.D. Ohio 2001).

Student Disabilities

Student sued university, alleging university dismissed him because of a learning disability. A student was admitted to a university's pre-medicine program conditioned upon the student's performance of minimum academic requirements. After his first semester, he failed to meet the minimum standards and was placed on probation with further conditions that he attend tutoring and submit to testing for learning disabilities at the university's learning center. …

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