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Jumbo v. Alabama State University

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

May 3, 2018




         This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment [100] filed by Defendant Alabama State University. After considering the submissions of the parties, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that this motion is well taken and should be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs originally brought this action in this Court on April 29, 2016.[1] In that suit, Plaintiffs brought various state law claims against Defendant Alabama State University (“ASU”) for mishandling scholarship monies provided to Plaintiffs by the Federal Republic of Nigeria. On July 6, 2016, that suit was dismissed without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, as Plaintiffs failed to meet the jurisdictional amount required for diversity jurisdiction.

         On August 25, 2016, Plaintiffs filed the current suit, which is based on the same alleged conduct, and bring the same state law claims against ASU. In addition to these claims, though, Plaintiffs bring a single federal claim under Title VI for national origin discrimination. Plaintiffs now claim that ASU mismanaged the scholarship monies and treated Plaintiffs differently than other students because they are from Nigeria.


         A. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” The Eleventh Circuit has held that

[s]ummary judgment is appropriate if the evidence before the court shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. In making this determination, the court must view all evidence and make all reasonable inferences in favor of the party opposing summary judgment.
The mere existence of some factual dispute will not defeat summary judgment unless that factual dispute is material to an issue affecting the outcome of the case. The relevant rules of substantive law dictate the materiality of a disputed fact. A genuine issue of material fact does not exist unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a reasonable jury to return a verdict in its favor.

Chapman v. AI Transport, 229 F.3d 1012, 1023 (11th Cir. 2000) (quoting Haves v. City of Miami, 52 F.3d 918, 921 (11th Cir. 1995)) (alteration in original).

         B. Title VI Claim

         Plaintiffs bring their national origin discrimination claim under § 601 of Title VI, which prohibits discrimination “on ground of race, color, or national origin” by “any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”[2] 42 U.S.C. § 2000d. The Supreme Court has held that it is “beyond dispute . . . that § 601 prohibits only intentional discrimination.” Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275, 280, 121 S.Ct. 1511, 149 L.Ed.2d 517 (2001). “Generally, claims of . . . discrimination under Title VI should . . . be analyzed under the same standards for claims of discrimination brought under § 1981 and Title VII.” Robertson v. Interactive Coll. of Tech./Interactive Learning Sys., Inc., No. 1:14-CV-2728-MHC-JSA, 2017 WL 5197874, at *25 (N.D.Ga. Jan. 13, 2017) (citing Pryor v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 288 F.3d 548, 569 (3d Cir. 2002)).[3] In the absence of direct evidence of discrimination, the Court applies the McDonnell Douglas burden shifting analysis. See Silva v. St. Anne Catholic Sch., 595 F.Supp.2d 1171, 1182 (D. Kan. 2009) (citing Guardians Ass'n v. Civil Serv. Comm'n of N.Y., 463 U.S. 582, 103 S.Ct. 3221, 77 L.Ed.2d 866 (1983)).[4] Under this analysis, Plaintiffs must first establish their prima facie case before the burden shifts to Defendant to provide a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its actions. Id. The burden then shifts once again to Plaintiffs, who must show that Defendant's reason is “pretextual.” Id.

         To establish their prima facie case, Plaintiffs must show that: “(1) they are members of a protected class; (2) they suffered adverse action; and (3) they were treated less favorably than similarly situated students.” Id. (citations omitted). Defendant argues that Plaintiffs have not adduced sufficient evidence “similarly situated students” were treated more favorably than they were. In fact, ...

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