UO Hires Celebrity Lawyer to Challenge Discrimination Lawsuit Filed By Former Student

By , UniversityHerald Reporter

The University of Oregon has contacted Neal Katyal, a former acting solicitor general and a celebrity lawyer, to seek a Supreme Court review of a gender discrimination lawsuit filed by a former graduate student.

In 2007, Monica Emeldi, working on a doctoral thesis, complained to the management that her adviser in the College of Education, Robert Horner, discriminated against her in favour of a male fellow student. But the university has vehemently denied the claim. 

Emeldi also blamed the university for shortage of female lecturers in her department. She had to eventually drop out of the University as none of the lecturers were ready to mentor her amid such allegations.

Emeldi then sued the university under the federal law Title IX, which basically talks about equal opportunities for both sexes in academics and athletics in federally funded schools. The suit has drawn attention because for the first time Title IX has been used in an academic setting rather than in athletics. 

In 2008, U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan dismissed the case but last year the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found there was enough evidence for a trial. However, the university has knocked on the Supreme Court's door instead of proceeding with a trial in a federal court in Eugene or settling with Emeldi.

Katyal said that there were academic disagreements between the student and her mentor over the thesis with no intentions of reprisal on the teacher's part. 

"The university is a strong proponent of the protections provided by both Title IX and academic freedom," said an statement issued by the university. "The record in the case reflects that professor Horner's decision to resign as Monica Emeldi's dissertation advisor was an appropriate and important exercise of academic judgment unaffected by discrimination," OPB reports.

The university has asked the Supreme Court to limit the use of 'burden-shifting' test used by courts to determine whether there's enough evidence to create a genuine issue for trial. The burden-shifting test requires a party claiming discrimination to show a level of evidence that the incident had actually happened.

The university argued that the 40-year-old test creates confusion and has outlived its usefulness. But the 9th Circuit found enough evidence to proceed to trial. If the court declines review, both the parties have to prepare for a trial in the U.S. District Court in Eugene, November.

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