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Seif v. The Board of Trustees of Alabama A&M

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division

July 28, 2017

MOHAMED A. SEIF, Ph.D., Plaintiff,
v.
THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF ALABAMA A&M, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Mohamed E. Seif, Ph.D. is a tenured professor at Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University. In this lawsuit, Dr. Seif alleges that the defendants discriminated against him because of his race, ethnicity, ancestry, and national origin. Dr. Seif asserts Title VII claims against the Board of Trustees of Alabama A&M. Dr. Seif asserts 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against Dr. Andrew Hugine, Jr., individually and in Dr. Hugine's official capacity as Alabama A&M's President; Dr. Daniel Wims, individually and in his official capacity as Alabama A&M's Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs; and Dr. Cassandra Tarver-Ross, individually and in her official capacity as Alabama A&M's Director of Human Resources. (Doc. 20, p. 2).

         Pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the individual defendants ask the Court to dismiss Dr. Seif's § 1983 claims against them. (Doc. 22). For the reasons stated below, the Court grants in part and denies in part the defendants' motion to dismiss.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Rule 12(b)(1) Standard

         Rule 12(b)(1) enables a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). A defendant may present either a facial or a factual challenge to subject matter jurisdiction. Morrison v. Amway Corp., 323 F.3d 920, 924 (11th Cir. 2003). If it is apparent from the face of the complaint that the plaintiff has pled facts that confer subject matter jurisdiction under a statute, then a court must deny a defendant's 12(b)(1) motion. Houston v. Marod Supermarkets, Inc., 733 F.3d 1323, 1335 (11th Cir. 2013). In conducting a facial analysis, a court must take the allegations of the complaint as true. Houston, 733 F.3d at 1335. In contrast, when a defendant mounts a factual challenge to subject matter jurisdiction, a district court may consider extrinsic evidence and weigh the facts to determine whether it may exercise jurisdiction. Houston, 733 F.3d at 1336.

         B. Rule 12(b)(6) Standard

         Rule 12(b)(6) enables a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a complaint against the “liberal pleading standards set forth by Rule 8(a)(2).” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Pursuant to Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “Generally, to survive a [Rule 12(b)(6)] motion to dismiss and meet the requirement of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), a complaint need not contain ‘detailed factual allegations, ' but rather ‘only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Maledy v. City of Enterprise, 2012 WL 1028176, *1 (M.D. Ala. March 2012) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007)). “Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         When evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a district court accepts as true the allegations in the complaint and construes the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Brophy v. Jiangbo Pharms. Inc., 781 F.3d 1296, 1301 (11th Cir. 2015). Therefore, in this opinion, the Court presents the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to Dr. Seif, recognizing that the defendants may dispute the allegations.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Dr. Seif is an Arabic-Egyptian male. (Doc. 20, ¶¶ 8, 34). Alabama A&M hired Dr. Seif in 2002. (Doc. 20, ¶ 9). Dr. Seif received tenure in 2006, and in 2007, Dr. Seif became the acting chair of the university's mechanical engineering department.

         (Doc. 20, ¶ 9). In 2008, Alabama A&M named Dr. Seif the chair of the mechanical engineering department. (Doc. 20, ¶ 9).

         When Dr. Seif became chair of the mechanical engineering department, the university had virtually no laboratory facilities. Alabama A&M now has six “well-equipped” laboratories that are in “excellent condition.” (Doc. 20, ¶ 10). In 2011, Alabama A&M “significantly expanded” Dr. Seif's responsibilities when it placed the civil engineering department under his leadership, and Dr. Seif became the chair of both the mechanical engineering and civil engineering departments. (Doc. 20, ¶ 11). Dr. Seif also oversees the construction management department. (Doc. 20, ¶ 14).

         According to Dr. Seif, he has “worked diligently to address all of the accreditation requirements” of the civil and mechanical engineering departments. (Doc. 20, ¶ 12). As a result of Dr. Seif's efforts, for the first time in Alabama A&M's history, the two programs obtained the maximum 6 years of accreditation. (Doc. 20, ¶ 12). Under Dr. Seif's leadership, enrollment in the mechanical engineering program has increased from 121 students in 2007 to 280 students today. (Doc. 20, ¶ 13). Dr. Seif contends that that “enrollment and [the] trajectory of enrollment increase” for the mechanical engineering department “is far better” than other engineering departments. (Doc. 20, ¶ 13).

         After becoming chair of the mechanical engineering department in 2008, Dr. Seif helped develop new courses, labs, and innovative programs. (Doc. 20, ¶ 15). He participated in a number of “high level scholarly activities, . . . author[ed] [] publications in prestigious and high quality journals, . . . obtain[ed] certifications, and provid[ed] mentorship programs for students.” (Doc. 20, ¶ 15). In 2013, Dr. Seif led a team of Alabama A&M students in a national NASA rocket building competition in which Alabama A&M placed first out of 40 universities. (Doc. ...


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