Wednesday, May 31, 2017

USA: New Jersey professor gave 'F' to UCC student because she's Muslim, lawsuit alleges

A Muslim woman has filed suit against Union County College claiming a professor discriminated against the student because of her religion.

Times of Ahmad | News Watch | US Desk
Source/Credit: NJ Advance Media /
By Tom Haydon | May 25, 2017

CRANFORD -- During the spring semester of 2016, Sahna ElBanna, a Muslim student at Union County College, silently endured a business professor repeatedly saying all Muslims were terrorists, according to a lawsuit filed in Superior Court.

Despite feeling humiliated in front of her classmates, ElBanna said nothing, fearing any objection would hurt her grade and knowing the college discouraged students from contradicting an instructor, the court filing states.

The student's fears were realized the next semester, when she took another class with the professor, heard the same discriminatory comments and finally asked the instructor to stop. Despite receiving "A"s on the two assignments worth 60 percent of her grade, ElBanna said the professor, Toby Grodner, gave her an "F," for the class, the lawsuit states.

The college "conceded she got 'A'"s on her midterm and her final exam, and that was worth 60 percent of her grade," said ElBanna's lawyer, Tariq Hussain. The experience, Hussain said, took a toll on the student.

"You're in the classroom each week. (The instructor) is using the terms Muslim and and terrorist interchangeably. Every moment you are in that class, you feel subhuman. You feel you are a terrorist," Hussain said. ElBanna, he said, suffered emotional distress.

Union County College is investigating a complaint ElBanna filed against Grodner, said Bernard Lenihan, vice-president of fiscal affairs and treasurer and spokesman for the college in Cranford.

Lenihan confirmed that Grodner is a senior professor of business.

"There's absolutely a complaint," Lenihan said. "I didn't know there was a lawsuit," he said. He declined to comment further because of the investigation is on-going.

Grodner, who according to the college website has a doctorate in education, did not return phone messages and emails sent to her seeking a comment.

In the spring semester of 2016, the student and Union Township resident remained quiet about Grodner's alleged comments, and she received a B-plus in a business course titled Organization & Management, according to the lawsuit.

During the following fall semester in 2016, ElBanna was in Grodner's Principals of Marketing class and again heard derogatory comments about Muslims, and saw the professor asking "each student their ethnicity," the court papers state.

When ElBanna eventually asked Grodner to stop making derogatory comments, the professor "became defensive and questioned the student about her religion," the suit states.

"Doesn't your religion believe men are superior to women," Grodner allegedly asked ElBanna at one point. "Do you even pray five times a day?" Grodner sarcastically remarked at another time, according to the filing in court.

At the end of the course, Grodner told the student she had receive an "A" on her final paper. Last January, however,  ElBanna discovered her grade was an "F" despite her having received two "A"s on parts of the course worth 60 percent of her grade, and "A"s on other assignments, Hussain said.

He said the college appeal process compounded the problem. Students must have an instructor sign the appeal form, but Grodner refused, the lawsuit states. ElBanna went to administrators and explained her situation, and an administrator went with the student to Grodner, who again refused to sign the appeal, court papers say.

The suit states that a dean refused to pursue the appeal process without Grodner's signature.

According to the suit, Grodner did not contest that ElBanna received an "A" on both her midterm and final, but said the student received grades of
"F" on eight multimedia assignments.

ElBanna kept a few of those assignments, on which she received "A"s, the papers state.

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