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Maisha v. University of North Carolina

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

January 22, 2015



CATHERINE C. EAGLES, District Judge.

The plaintiff, Mackean P. Nyangweso Maisha, sued the University of North Carolina and several UNC professors and officials over his treatment while a graduate student at UNC. Mr. Maisha's remaining claims are a Title VI claim against UNC based on racial and national origin discrimination and § 1983 claims and emotional distress claims against Professor Jason Fine and Professor Michael Hudgens. Because Mr. Maisha has not presented sufficient admissible evidence to support any of his claims, the Court will grant the defendants' motion for summary judgment.



In summarizing the relevant facts, the Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, Mr. Maisha. The Court has not considered "facts" set forth in the briefs that are not supported by citations to admissible evidence.

Mr. Maisha repeatedly cites the amended complaint as evidence of the "facts" stated.[1] ( See generally Doc. 64.) Unless the defendants admitted the alleged fact in their answer, (Doc. 26), the Court has not considered unverified statements in the amended complaint. (Doc. 14.) These allegations are not under oath and are not evidence. Higgins v. Scherr , 837 F.2d 155, 156-57 (4th Cir. 1988). Nor has the Court considered inadmissible hearsay, as indicated in the Court's Order granting in part the defendants' motion to strike. (Doc. 72.)

The Court also has not considered exhibits Mr. Maisha submitted with his substitute brief. ( See Doc. 64-1.) The Order allowing Mr. Maisha to submit a substitute brief did not allow him to submit additional evidence. ( See Doc. 63.) To consider this evidence would be to reward Mr. Maisha for violating the Local Rules, see L.R. 7.3(f), (g), and would be unfair to the defendants, who wrote a reply brief based on the evidence originally submitted. Therefore, the Court strikes the exhibits Mr. Maisha filed with his substitute brief at Docket 64-1.

Finally, the Court will not scour the record-which, even as limited above, constitutes hundreds of pages-to find evidence to support or refute a party's factual statements. See Stephenson v. Pfizer Inc. , No. 1:13cv147, 2014 WL 4410580, at *1 n.1 (M.D. N.C. Sept. 8, 2014) (noting that the Court has no obligation to "investigat[e] the basis of claimed facts"); Hughes v. B/E Aerospace, Inc. , No. 1:12CV717, 2014 WL 906220, at *1 n.1 (M.D. N.C. Mar. 7, 2014) ("A party should not expect a court to do the work that it elected not to do."); see also Ritchie v. Glidden Co. , 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001) (noting that "a court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment" (internal quotation marks omitted)). While the Court has relied on the parties to direct the Court's attention to the relevant evidence, the Court has accepted the actual evidence and not the parties' characterization of that evidence, which, in Mr. Maisha's case, is often inaccurate and exaggerated.

Finally, the Court has recited only material facts. There are some disputed facts related to Mr. Maisha's tenure as a UNC student, but they are irrelevant to the matters at issue. The Court has examined all the proffered evidence carefully but sees no need to include a complicated review of Mr. Maisha's academic career when that review would serve no purpose.

Undisputed Facts

It appears undisputed that Mr. Maisha[2] is a black man originally from Africa.[3] He was a graduate student in the DrPH program in UNC's Biostatistics Department in May 2006. (Doc. 43-26 at 17.) DrPH students must pass the "Qualifying Exam" within their first four years and must pass it before beginning dissertation research. (Doc. 43-1 at ¶ 32; Doc. 43-24 at 153-54, 165; Doc. 43-25 at 8-9.) Mr. Maisha failed the Qualifying Exam in August 2006 due to administrative errors by UNC, (Doc. 43-1 at ¶¶ 14-15; Doc. 43-17 at 6), so UNC agreed to "re-start the clock" on Mr. Maisha's deadline to pass, giving him until the fall of 2012, rather than the fall of 2010. (Doc. 43-25 at 8-9; Doc. 53-1 at p. 18 ¶ 38.) As of the fall of 2010, Mr. Maisha had not passed the Qualifying Exam. (Doc. 43-1 at ¶ 50; Doc. 43-5 at ¶ 24; Doc. 43-7 at ¶ 21.)

Dr. Michael Kosorok, Chair of the Biostatistics Department, allowed Mr. Maisha to conduct "informal dissertation research" with Professors Fine and Hudgens as he prepared for the Exam. (Doc. 43-1 at ¶ 31; Doc. 43-5 at ¶ 12; Doc. 43-7 at ¶ 8.) In 2008, the professors and Mr. Maisha picked a research topic, and Mr. Maisha began contributing to Professor Fine's HIV research. (Doc. 43-5 at ¶¶ 13-14; Doc. 43-7 at ¶¶ 9-10, 15.) The professors told Mr. Maisha several times that he must take and pass the Qualifying Exam in August 2010 or they would not continue to work with him on research. (Doc. 43-5 at ¶¶ 16-22; Doc. 43-7 at ¶¶ 14-20.) Several times the professors and Dr. Kosorok reminded Mr. Maisha of the Exam and offered to help him prepare. ( See Doc. 43-5 at ¶ 20; Doc. 43-7 at ¶ 18; Doc. 43-20 at 1, 3; Doc. 43-1 at ¶ 47; Doc. 43-24 at 198-200.) Mr. Maisha did not take the August 2010 Exam, (Doc. 43-1 at ¶ 50; Doc. 43-5 at ¶ 24; Doc. 43-7 at ¶ 21), and Professor Fine told Mr. Maisha that he and Professor Hudgens would no longer work with him. (Doc. 43-24 at 201.)

Mr. Maisha registered for BIOS 994, a dissertation-level research class taught by Professor Fine, for the Fall 2010 semester. (Doc. 43-7 at ¶¶ 11, 27.) Students must have passed the Qualifying Exam to take BIOS 994. (Doc. 43-1 at ¶ 43; Doc. 43-7 at ¶ 27; Doc. 43-25 at 8-9.) Even though Mr. Maisha was not eligible to take the course, Professor Fine gave Mr. Maisha a passing grade because he "felt sympathy for him and wanted to give him time to figure out his next steps." (Doc. 43-7 at ¶ 27.)

Though he still had not passed the Qualifying Exam, Mr. Maisha again registered for BIOS 994 for the Spring 2011 semester. (Doc. 43-7 at ¶ 28.) In January 2011, Professor Fine told Mr. Maisha this was inappropriate. (Doc. 43-23 at 1.) In March, Mr. Maisha emailed Professor Hudgens and requested more data for his research, (Doc. 43-20 at 7), and Professor Hudgens reminded Mr. Maisha that he and Professor Fine were no longer his research advisors and that he should not continue working on the study. (Doc. 43-19 at 1.) Mr. Maisha did not drop BIOS 994 by the deadline, and Professor Fine gave him a grade of "Incomplete." (Doc. 43-7 at ¶ 28; Doc. 43-23 at 3.)

Mr. Maisha again registered for BIOS 994 for the Fall 2011 semester. (Doc. 43-7 at ¶ 29; Doc. 43-23 at 3.) In September 2011, Professor Fine told Mr. Maisha to drop the course because he did not have permission to take it. (Doc. 43-7 at ¶ 29; Doc. 43-23 at 3.) Professor Fine reminded Mr. Maisha that he had a grade of "Incomplete" for Spring 2011 BIOS 994 and said the grade would automatically become a failing grade if Mr. Maisha did not contact him. (Doc. 43-23 at 3.) Professor Fine cautioned Mr. Maisha that he might lose his graduate-student status if this happened. (Doc. 43-7 at ¶ 29; Doc. 43-23 at 3.)

The University administratively dropped Mr. Maisha from Fall 2011 BIOS 994 on September 14, 2011. (Doc. 43-21 at 6, 7.) For reasons not clear from the record, Mr. Maisha was not administratively dropped from Spring 2011 BIOS 994 until sometime in Spring 2012. (Doc. 43-1 at ¶ 55; Doc. 43-23 at 4; Doc. 43-21 at 3-5.)

Graduate students at UNC must register for a minimum number of credit hours per semester to remain enrolled. (Doc. 43-4 at ¶ 3; Doc. 43-16 at 27.) In September 2011, once Mr. Maisha was dropped from Fall 2011 BIOS 994, he was not registered for enough hours to remain enrolled at UNC, which also meant he was no longer eligible for financial aid. (Doc. 43-4 at ¶¶ 3-6; Doc. 43-8 at ¶ 12; Doc. 43-16 at 27.)

Mr. Maisha was not required to take BIOS 994 to remain a graduate student. ( See Doc. 43-16 at 27; Doc. 43-1 at ¶ 56; Doc. 43-4 at ¶ 6.) He was eligible to take other courses in 2011, but it does not appear that he did. (Doc. 43-1 at ¶ 56; Doc. 43-4 at ¶ 6; Doc. 43-21 at 3.) Instead, from August 1, 2010, until July 2013, Mr. Maisha was enrolled in a graduate ...

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