Legal, Summary and Analysis
There are many students who experience discrimination on college campuses. Discrimination comes from the prejudice treatment of specific identities such as minority groups. These identities include, but not limited to, religion, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, and disability. In this paper, I will be discussing a case that involves discrimination of religion and national origin. I will briefly discuss laws and policies to unequal distribution of power within higher education. As institutions face many complex laws and policies on college campuses such as freedom of speech and freedom of expression, there is a need to discuss those policies so as to ensure a just educational environment that is free from any form of discrimination.
Through this, institutions would be able to better serve students’ educational needs to support a successful academic journey. The purpose of this paper is to help educators understand some challenges that Muslim students face on college campuses and how to best support them academically, personally, and emotionally as all these aspects are crucial for their successful academic journey. Case History Many Muslim college students experience discrimination on college campuses. There are two forms of discrimination that Muslim students face: religion and national origin. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the media developed a negative image of Muslims that contributed how the Muslim community is untrustworthy and a threat to national security (Amrani, 2017). Prior to September 11 attacks, “FBI recorded between 20 to 30 anti-Muslim hate crimes per year” (Amrani, 2015, p. 9). After September
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11 attacks, “annual hate crimes against Muslims have consistently hovered around 100 to 150 range, roughly five times higher than the pre September 11 rate” (Amrani, 2017, p. 9). Moreover, in 2007, “there were 118 reported cases of discrimination in schools, and in 2008 there were 153 reported cases” (Zaal, 2012). These statistics shows a clear escalation of hate crimes against Muslim communities in the United States which intensifies the experiences of Muslim college students. Arising with these incidents is the term Islamophobia. Islamophobia is a term “developed in the late 1990s and early 2000s by political activists, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), public commentators, and international organizations to draw attention to harmful rhetoric and actions directed at Islam and Muslims in Western liberal democracies” (Bleich, 2011, para. 2).
Recently, the term has been evolving as researchers have begun using it in classifying and analyzing anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim values and beliefs (Bleich, 2011). When people, in regard to their beliefs, devote their time to Islamophobia, other concerns are not being taken into consideration such as “racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Roma sentiments, anti-immigrant prejudice, sexism, homophobia, etc” (Bleich, 2011, para. 41). It is crucial to use the term as social scientific concept so as to discuss “meaningful comparative and casual analysis in academic” (Bleich, 2011, para. 41). Moreover, discrimination against Muslim communities have increased tremendously post 2016 president election (Cole & Ahmadi, 2019). There are specific groups within the Muslim community that are targeted most often based on their national origin. Those groups are Arabs, Sikhs, and South Asians (Zaal, 2012). A group
that is targeted most within or outside of those groups is Muslim women especially those wearing the hijab (veil). The hijab is seen as an identity mark to be distinguished from other groups by others as their religion is their most visible identity. Because Muslim women can be easily distinguished, they get discriminated the most. This doesn’t only affect their academic journey, but it affects their decision of wearing the hijab (Cole & Ahmadi, 2003). This is because of having a sense of fear, suspicion, looks, or simply being tired of feeling isolated (Cole & Ahmadi, 2003). Now that there is a clear description of what constitute the development of discriminatory incidents on Muslim students on college campuses, I will be focusing on a case that involved a Muslim college student, who is a woman wearing the hijab, who received unjust treatment from her professor in the classroom. This form of discrimination was based on religion and national origin in violation of the professor’s authority to supporting his students.
Issue Did Naziri (plaintiff) receive unfair treatment by Professor Worrell based on Naziri’s religious beliefs and national origin? Is Professor Worrell’s speech protected under the first Amendment and has Professor Worrell violated University policies? These are the two questions that will be covered throughout discussing the case facts and details to better understand what happened. We will be able to determine if professor Worrell is responsible for the charges based on the facts provided despite the court’s decision. Case Facts
Background: Maryam Naziri (Plaintiff) is the student in this case who’re originally from Afghanistan. She is a Muslim woman who wears the hijab. She is also married to Nisar Naziri who is also afghan and a student at UCC. Mr. Naziri served on the U.S. Army in Afghanistan as a combat linguist for 7 years prior to moving to the United States in 2014 with his wife. He is also a plaintiff as there are two counts of defamation which allowed Mr Naziri to be a party of the suit (Bichao, 2017). During the incident, both plaintiffs lived in Elizabeth, New Jersey. On the other hand, Marsha Worrell (Defendant) was a Math professor at Union County College (UCC) which is a community college located in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Defendant who made discriminatory and harassing comments directed towards Naziri (Plaintiff) caused multiple hate incidents in the classroom. In addition, the defendant had filed a complaint against the plaintiff that she made terrorist threat that were false accusations. Those false accusations can have serious consequences on both plaintiffs such as profiling, detention at airports along with security checkpoints, loss of housing, loss of employment, etc. (Bichao, 2017). Indeed, Mr. Naziri risked his life to help the U.S. Army to fight against terrorism which caused him to leave his homeland with his wife to avoid terrorism and war. Procedural History: Plaintiff Naziri enrolled in Worrell’s math course during Fall 2017 semester. Following her enrollment, Naziri had experienced unjust treatment from Worrell due to Naziri’s religion and national origin (Bichao, 2017). Plaintiff Naziri alleges that defendant Wernell speaks to her in a demanding manner and doesn’t give credit to Naziri for
answering questions which she did not due either to other students. Naziri also alleges that Worrell continously criticized and humiliated her in the classroom. Specifically, on September 21, 2017, Naziri alleges that Worrell “berated and scolded” and refused to allow her to take a test. Worrell request Naziri to complete additional assignments which were from a chapter ahead even though she finished her assignment for the previous. Other students were allowed to take the test and were not required to complete the assignment prior to taking the exam. This incident made Naziri tear which caused her to step out to compose herself, and when she went back to the classroom, Worrell continued criticizing Naziri.
Mrs. Naziri complained to Dr. Raul Sanchez, who’s the Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action Officer, and the Title IX Coordinator at UCC (Bichao, 2017). As Mrs. Naziri complained to campus administrators, she was notified by a college administrator that defendant Worrell reported to Elizabeth police that Mrs. Naziri made “terroristic threat” on September 21st. During that date, Worrell didn’t allow Naziri to take the exam. Worrell took the dispute over the math test as Mrs. Naziri was making terrorist threat when she was simply asking for her rights to take the exam with the rest of her classmates. This presents some islamophobic believes that Worrell has against the Muslim community and the national origin of Mrs. Naziri to be able to treat her unjustly compared to the rest of the class. However, Elizabeth Police Spokesman mentioned that there was no record of a filed complaint against Naziri. Naziri’s lawyer responded through NJ Advance Media that sometimes complaints get taken to the FBI resulting in observing the accused person prior to speaking with them directly.
UCC Spokeswoman, Jaime Segal, responded to the case stating that the college can’t comment on pending litigation but the allegation that was filed with UCC’s equal employment opportunity/ affirmative action officer and Title IX coordinator has not yet reached a conclusion. On the other hand, Vice President Bernard F. Lenihan Statement to NJ 101.5, “It is the stated policy of Union County College that the college is committed to provide an environment of mutual respect and trust, which is free of all forms of discrimination. Consequently, all allegations of behavior alleging violations of this core principle are vigorously investigated” (Bichao, 2017, para. 15).
Due to the prejudicial treatment, plaintiffs Mr. and Mrs. Naziri filed a five-count Complaint on October 19, 2017. The complaint contained the following: (1) discrimination on the basis of cree in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination…(2) national origin discrimination in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964…(3) denial substantive due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution…(4) defamation as against Worrell…(5) defamation per se as against Worrell (Civil Action No. 17-8768). On January 26, 2018, defendant “moved to dismiss Counts Three, Four, and Five of the Complaint, as well as all of Mr. Naziri’s claims…Plaintiffs submitted their opposition on February 20, 2018, and Defendants replied on February 26, 2018” (Civil Action No. 17-8768). These concluded the facts within the case as Mrs. Naziri’s complaints are appeared to be handled in the institution level and not the court level. Court’s Analysis & Conclusion
This case was handled in New Jersey District Court under judge Leda D. Wettre with a case number of 2:17-cv-08768. The The lawsuit was filed on October 19, 2017 and was terminated on February 14, 2019. When Plaintiffs were informed that UCC is taking action in regard to the prejudicial treatment Mrs. Naziri experiences by her Math professor Worrell and requested to dismiss Count Three. Moreover, Plaintiffs were expected to submit a notice of claim to the public entity that states date, place, description, any damages, etc. that are related to the incidents between herself and her professor Worrell.
Plaintiffs failed to submit this notice within the ninety days of the claim occurring which caused County Four and Five to be dismissed. Plaintiffs argued that the notice of claim is not required basing on N.J. Stat. Ann § 59:4-2 as professor Worrell’s behavior was outside of her employment when defamed Mrs. Naziri. In fact, Worrell defamed her in the classroom which means that she was not outside of the scope of her employment. Furthermore, Mr. Naziri had not any contact with professor Worrell which caused all counts alleged by him to be dismissed. Overall, nothing has been done in a response to this case. Recommendations Discrimination against minority groups is something that everyone should be aware of its existence. Freedom of expression is crucial in the development of individuals; however, there needs to be set limits. There needs to be a balance between freedom of expression and harming others as practicing freedom of expression does not justify harming others (Cohen-Almagor, 2008). In the following section, I will briefly discuss
related cases of hate incidents that are based on religious discrimination and/or national origin. Related Incidents: Early 2017, another Muslim student, Sahna ElBanna (plaintiff), from UCC received an F on her course even though she received As on two assignments that are worth 60 percent of her total grade. Professor Toby Grodner (defendant) was making offensive comments to plaintiff ElBanna. Professor would ask student questions such as “Doesn’t your religion believe men are superior to women?” and “Do you even pray five times a day?” as those questions are highly offensive (Silverman, 2017).
After receiving an F in the class, ElBanna tried to appeal her grade, but this is unsuccessful as the professor kept refusing to sign the appeal form. ElBanna consulted with the administrative board, and there were unable to assist her along with the dean. Based on the college’s policy, ElBanna was unable to appeal her grade because she wasn’t able to receive the signature even though she passed all of her other classes, and she has to pay to retake the course. This case, in my opinion, was mishandled by the institution even though the instructor was found liable for saying “All Muslims are terrorists” throughout the course of the semester. On January 2017, another incident occurred at UC Davis Islamic Center where a woman was found smashing windows, damaging bikes, and draping an exterior door handle with bacon- as a symbolism of how the woman feels about the community (Smith, 2017). This is extremely offensive to the Muslim community as bacon is
forbidden in the religion. Even though this incident didn’t occur on a college campus, it occured at a facility that many Muslim students from UC Davis occupy on a daily basis. On December 2016, a student from University of Michigan, was approached by a stranger threatening to set her on fire if she doesn’t take off her hijab (Counts, 2017). Just to mention a few incidents that has occurred in the past few years especially post 2016 presidential elections. This is to identify the incidents that some students go through that affect the whole community. It is important to be mindful of what’s happening around us as you never know who’s next.
However, these are only a few of the incidents that were reported as there are many more that don’t get reported as many Muslim students fear for reprisal. Proposed Recommendations: Freedom of expression as it can involve hate speech can have major negative effects on college students. Hate speech effects those who are targeted both mental and emotional distress (Cohen-Almagor, 2008). An interesting study by Rippy and Newman (2006) discussed the different discriminations that many Muslim Americans receive. Rippy and Newman (2006) discussed how many Muslim Americans, who “look white,” experience discrimination solely based on religion where first-generation and second-generation Muslims received much higher discrimination incidents. This is because they received discrimination based on not only their religion, but on their national origin as well (Rippy & Newman, 2006). The study looked at the psychological effects of religious discrimination where there is a strong relationship between religious discrimination and subclinical paranoid ideation (Rippy & Newman, 2006). The study
discussed the importance of clinicians’ understanding of this issue as this is essential in better assisting those who have experienced these unfortunate circumstances (Rippy & Newman, 2006). As student affairs professionals, we also have to understand this concept because we deal with students all the time. If we can’t serve our students better, then we are not succeeding in our careers. It is important to build rapport with students to make them feel comfortable approaching us with incidents that they are experiencing. It doesn’t mean that only Muslim students experience discrimination, but a lot of other students are still discriminated on college campuses.
We want to make sure that we are providing a supportive, inclusive, and welcoming environment for all. We want to make sure that we talk about the differences between hate speech and freedom of speech in despite of how many hate speech is protected based on the first amendment on. It is important to discuss what form of hate speech is not protected on college campuses. For example, if professors are using their authority to make discriminatory decisions against students such as failing a student when they have successfully completed all their assigned work; this is in violation of their own authority and should receive circumstances from higher administration. In addition, offering training on speech will assist other faculty and staff in how to express their opinions in a different way. As it is essential for faculty and staff to express their right of freedom of expression, this has to be clearly understood that it can’t involve their power over students. Their opinions should not have an effect on students under any circumstances. Finally, encouraging online service providers to eliminate hateful
content will be supportive to the whole community especially minority groups as even when incidents don’t occur to them personally, they still have negative psychological effects. In conclusion, those strategies would help to support students who experience discrimination along with preventing hate incidents of occuring on our campuses.
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