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TRIPP v. LONG ISLAND UNIVERSITY

March 3, 1999

PEARLIE TRIPP, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LONG ISLAND UNIVERSITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nickerson, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, an African-American woman, filed this action on April 29, 1996 alleging that defendant, Long Island University ("the University"), discriminated against her on the basis of her race, in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("section 1981"), the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d ("Title VI"), and the Human Rights Law of the State of New York. She seeks $20 million.

This court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, 1343(a)(3), and 1367.

Plaintiff was represented by counsel when the complaint was filed but she has acted pro se since her counsel resigned in December 1996. On March 13, 1998, defendant moved for summary judgment. The court considers the defendant's motion on submission of both parties.

I

The complaint alleges in substance that from 1993 to the filing of the complaint, she was enrolled in the Masters Degree in Psychology Program at the University, and that the University, through its employees, purposefully denied plaintiff the right to contract free from racial considerations and engaged in a pattern of racial discrimination designed to prevent her from completing her masters degree on the same basis as similarly situated white persons.

The alleged discriminatory acts are: 1) around July 1993, a faculty member of the psychology department, Dr. Robert Fudin, told plaintiff, "you are in the wrong department" when he saw her wandering the hallways; 2) in his role as plaintiff's independent study advisor, Dr. Fudin criticized plaintiff's research paper "with intent to discriminate" and "in order to force her to leave the [Program]"; 3) Dr. Fudin "threatened" to give plaintiff a poor grade in order to force her to leave the Program; and 4) the University "forced" plaintiff to transfer from the Psychology Department to the Counseling Department "in order to avoid the discriminatory atmosphere of Psychology Department."

In an affidavit submitted to the court, Dr. Fudin states that plaintiff's paper was poorly researched and written and that in his opinion plaintiff's grade is a fair evaluation of her work. He denies ever having said to plaintiff she was in the wrong department. Finally, the University states that plaintiff voluntarily transferred from the psychology department to the counseling department.

II

Plaintiff is a fifty-five year old, African-American woman. Her husband died of a brain disorder in 1978 in the psychiatric ward of Kings County Hospital. One of her three sons was shot and killed in 1987. Her thirty-four year old son has been diagnosed as a schizophrenic and, plaintiff says, is "sometimes hard to deal with."

Despite these difficult family circumstances, plaintiff has led an industrious life. She worked for NYNEX as a directory assistant for twenty-six years. For seventeen of those years, she was responsible for instructing and training new directory assistants. Plaintiff retired from NYNEX in 1997.

Around 1985, plaintiff began taking classes toward a bachelor's degree. She started at Manhattan Community College, and then attended Pace University where she took classes in the night program and the "associate's program." Around 1986, she was accepted to Pace University's bachelor of arts program but was unable to pursue her studies because one son was killed and the schizophrenic son had become sick. She took no classes for about four years.

Because her son was schizophrenic, plaintiff wished to study more psychology. In July 1993, she was accepted to the Masters Degree in Psychology Program at the University. Her tuition was fully covered by NYNEX. Because of scheduling conflicts at work, plaintiff could not work at night, and had to arrange a more flexible schedule with her department.

Gary Kose, the Chairman of the department, after discussion with her, gave her permission to do a three-credit independent study with a faculty advisor in lieu of taking classes. Plaintiff was assigned Dr. ...


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