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Wanko v. Board of Trustees of Indiana University

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

July 30, 2018




         This matter is before the Court on several pending motions. Defendant Board of Trustees of Indiana University's (“Indiana University”) has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Filing No. 87). Plaintiff Catherine Wanko's (“Wanko”) has filed a Corrected Motion to Defer or Deny Summary Judgment and/or Time to Conduct Discovery, and/or For Any Other Relief Pursuant to Rule 56(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Filing No. 92) (the “Rule 56(d) Motion”).

         Also before the Court is Wanko's Objection to the Magistrate Order Granting in Part, Denying in Part an Extension of Discovery and Order Denying the Motion to Compel, requesting that Indiana University provide official student records identified by students' names. (Filing No. 83.) For the reasons that follow, the Court overrules Wanko's Objection, denies her Rule 56(d) Motion, and grants Indiana University's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are undisputed. Plaintiff Wanko is an African-American and naturalized United States' citizen, originally from Cameroon. (Filing No. 28 at 2.) In August 2014, Wanko enrolled as a dental student at Indiana University School of Dentistry (“IUSD”). Id. at 3. At all times during her enrollment at IUSD, it was required that a student maintain at least a 2.0 cumulative grade point average to be eligible for promotion. (Filing No. 88-1 at 1.)

         During Wanko's first year, the 2014-2015 school year, she failed two courses -Removable Prosthodontics (“RP”) and Single Tooth Indirect Restorations (“STI”). Id. at 2. Because she failed two courses, the Progress Committee reviewed Wanko's advancement and directed her to remediate RP in the early summer of 2015, and to retake STI when it was next offered, in the spring of 2016. Id. Wanko attempted to remediate RP in early summer 2015, during which time her STI failing grade was categorized as incomplete. Id. If Wanko successfully remediated RP, she would then qualify to move to D-2 (the second year curriculum) but would still have to retake STI in the spring of 2016 while doing her second year program. Upon successfully passing STI, her incomplete grade would convert to a C-.

         According to the school's policies and procedures, to successfully remediate a course, a student must pass the course with a score deemed acceptable by the course director for a particular course. Dr. Steven Haug, the course director for RP, defined a passing attempt to be a score of 80% or better on the remediation examination. (Filing No. 88-2 at 1.) Eight students took the RP remediation examination, and each were required to score at least 80%. Id. at 2. Wanko was the only student of the eight to score below 80%, receiving a score of 71%. Of the eight students, five were Caucasian, two were African-American, and one was Hispanic. (Filing No. 88-1 at 3.) Additionally, only two students in Wanko's class failed both RP and STI during the 2014-2015 school year, including Wanko. Id. The other student was also an African-American female. Because the other student successfully remediated RP, in the summer of 2015, with a score of over 80%, she was eligible for promotion to the second year. Id. No Caucasian students failed or received an incomplete in STI in the spring of 2015; therefore, no Caucasian students were required to remediate STI during the relevant time period. Wanko earned multiple C's and C- grades, and was required to repeat the first year curriculum. Id. at 4. Wanko failed STI a second time in the spring of 2016.


         A. Summary Judgment

         The purpose of summary judgment is to pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.” Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587106 S.Ct. 1348 (1986). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that summary judgment is appropriate if “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show 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.” Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.Com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 489-90 (7th Cir. 2007). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court reviews “the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.” Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). However, “[a] party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial.” Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at 490 (citation omitted). “In much the same way that a court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment, nor is it permitted to conduct a paper trial on the merits of a claim.” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001) (citation and internal quotations omitted). Indeed, a court may not make credibility determinations, weigh the evidence, or decide which inferences to draw from the facts. Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003) (“these are jobs for a factfinder”); Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at 490. Instead, when ruling on a summary judgment motion, a court's responsibility is to decide, based on the evidence of record, whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a trial. Id.

         B. Rule 72(a)

         A district court may refer for decision a non-dispositive pretrial motion to a magistrate judge under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a). Rule 72(a) provides:

When a pretrial matter not dispositive of a party's claim or defense is referred to a magistrate judge to hear and decide, the magistrate judge must promptly conduct the required proceedings and, when appropriate, issue a written order stating the decision. A party may serve and file objections to the order within 14 days after being served with a copy. A party may not assign as error a defect in the order not timely objected to. The district judge in the case must consider timely objections and modify or set aside any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or is contrary to law.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a). After reviewing objections to a magistrate judge's order, the district court will modify or set aside the order only if it is clearly erroneous or contrary to law. The clear error standard is highly deferential, permitting reversal only when the district court “is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been ...

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