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Mosier v. The State University of New York

United States District Court, E.D. New York

January 2, 2020

ERIN MOSIER, Plaintiff,
v.
THE STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK, STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY, and LAWRENCE FROHMAN, Ph.D., individually, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          Sandra J. Feuerstein United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Erin Mosier ("Plaintiff or "Mosier") commenced this civil action against defendants The State University of New York ("SUNY"), Stony Brook University ("Stony Brook"; together with SUNY, the "SUNY Defendants"), and Lawrence Frohman, Ph.D., individually ("Frohman"), alleging sexual discrimination in violation of Title IX, 20 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq., N.Y.S. Executive Law §§ 296(4) and (6), and N.Y.S. Civil Rights Law § 40-c(2). (See Amended Complaint, ECF No. 30.) Presently before the Court are: Frohman's motion seeking the dismissal of the causes of action against him, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (hereafter, the "Frohman MTD" (see ECF No. 35); see also Frohman Support Memo (ECF No. 35-4)); and, the SUNY Defendants' motion seeking dismissal of the action pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and (6) of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (hereafter, the "SUNY MTD" (see ECF No. 37); collectively with the Frohman MTD, the "Dismissal Motions"); see also SUNY Support Memo (ECF No. 37-1)). Plaintiff opposes the Dismissal Motions. (See ECF Nos. 35-6 and 37-3[1] (hereafter, the “Opposition” or “Opp'n”).) For the following reasons, the Dismissal Motions are granted in part and denied in part.

         II. Background

         A. Factual Allegations[2]

         “SUNY is the largest comprehensive university system in the United States with 64 institutions serving nearly 1.3 million students.” (Amended Complaint, ¶5.) Stony Brook is a SUNY institution located on Long Island, New York. (See Id. at 6.) It received and continues to receive federal financial assistance. (See Id. at ¶50.)

         After receiving an Associate's Degree in Adolescent Education from Nassau Community College in the Spring of 2015, graduating with a 3.3 grade point average (“GPA”) (see Id. at ¶10), Plaintiff continued her education at Stony Brook, participating in its Social Studies Education Program (hereafter, the “Program”), of which Frohman was a Director and whose classes Mosier attended from September 2015 through May 2018. (See Id. at ¶¶8, 12.) Frohman was the Program's sole undergraduate advisor. (See Id. at ¶12.)

         “Within weeks of attending . . . class taught by Frohman, Frohman began a campaign of demeaning and degrading sex discrimination against Mosier, including both private statements made during office hours and public humiliation during class . . .” (Id. at ¶14.) For example, Plaintiff alleges Frohman stated:

• “You are nothing but a pretty face;”
• “All you are is a dumb blonde;”
• “You will only get positions in life if you use your body” and “you should be thankful for your looks;”
• Telling Mosier during office hours that she “talks too much” and that her mouth should be used “for something else” and that “all women should use their mouth for men's pleasure;”
• Degrading Mosier when she got an answer wrong by saying, “It's not your fault you are a woman and can't help yourself but be wrong;”
• “You will only make it in life if you marry rich;”
• One day when Mosier asked Frohman to explain an issue after class, he responded by saying, “Can you get through all of your blonde?”
• “Women have no right being in the workplace;”
• “This is not a place for women;”
• “Women are incompatible;”
• Making Mosier so uncomfortable with her appearance that she changed her hair color from blonde to brown;
• Saying to Mosier in front of the entire class when she walked in a few minutes late, “Look, the delinquent has joined us, ” which he would not have done to the male students;
• Making comments about Mosier's looks and gender when she attended Frohman's office hours to ask questions about the Program or creating her schedule;
• Silently approaching Mosier while she was reading or listening to her headphones in the hallway of the Social and Behavioral Sciences (“SBS”) building, where the Program was located and where Frohman had his office, and standing over her until she noticed his presence, which was frightening to Mosier, and which Frohman did so frequently that Mosier stopped going to the SBS building;
• Blatantly favoring male students over female students by, among other things, allowing the male students to work independently while Mosier and the one other female student in his class had to work together, as if the female students were not able to complete work on their own;
• Giving better grades to male students based on gender, as demonstrated by the fact that Mosier and a male student did their work together and checked each other's work, yet the male student consistently received a higher grade than Mosier, and Frohman stated that he “grades based on feelings;”
• Making class so frightening and hostile that after class one evening when Frohman called Mosier to return to the classroom, Mosier became frozen with fear and only returned after a male friend offered to accompany her, and the issue was merely that Mosier had left her water bottle in the classroom;
• Making so many sexual comments to Mosier during office hours that she became so uncomfortable that she made an excuse to leave, even though Mosier was required to attend Frohman's office hours since he was the Program's sole advisor, either to select classes or to go over Mosier's work;
• Emailing Mosier at the end of the Fall 2016 semester and telling her to drop out of the Program, that he did not see a way for her to complete the Program and that she would not graduate as a teacher, which was devastating to Mosier;
• When Mosier brought her mother to meet with Frohman following that email, demeaning Mosier by saying, “I see you brought your mommy with you” and dismissing Mosier as having a learning disability, saying to Mosier, “I don't understand learning disabilities and why can't you just deal with it;”
• Saying to Mosier in front of her mother, “You have to prove to me you are not just an air head dumb blonde with a pretty face;”
• Showing Mosier a list of grades at the end of the semester and all the male students had A's and B's, while the female students had C's and D's;
• Intentionally embarrassing Mosier in class by asking a male student his opinion about a topic and then asking Mosier her opinion, after which Frohman kept asking Mosier “Why?” and began to explain why the male student was right and she was wrong, and when Mosier explained that she simply had a different opinion from the male student, Frohman said in front of the class, “I'm not going to have another 3-hour go around meeting with you and your mother about your learning disability, ” which caused another student to say, “Why is Frohman hating extra on Erin today?”
• Continuing to make comments in class about Mosier's looks and body, including calling her a “dumb blonde” in front of her peers;
• Making sexual comments and comments that put down women, including talking about how he enjoys oral sex and using the term “blow job” while standing over Mosier and looking at her;
• Asking the class to identify a picture on the chalkboard and when Mosier, with permission, went to the front of the room to get a closer look and realized what the image was, hitting Mosier across the arm and saying, “Don't say what it is or I'm going to slap you across your ass for not being a good girl;”
• Responding to Mosier's email requesting a meeting with Frohman, “Say please . . .” which he would ...

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