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Princeton Graduate Sues Grad School for Discrimination

Princeton Graduate Sues Grad School for Discrimination
1/29/2019
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Susan Dutca-Lovell

A Princeton University student who had applied to medical school and was rejected is now suing the school after being advised to take a DNA test to discover Native American or African American lineage in hopes of significantly increasing her chances of admission. The student is charging racial discrimination and a federal judge ruled that her case would proceed, despite requests to dismiss it.

A 2017 graduate of Princeton University and neuroscience major, Nicole Katchur wanted to attend Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University/Philadelphia University and was thrilled to learn that an admissions officer from the medical school was visiting Princeton. Katchur was the only student to sign up to meet the representative, especially given the competitiveness at the medical school. In her one-on-one meeting with the college representative, Katchur was allegedly questioned multiple times about her race; when she answered that she was white, the admissions office asked "if plaintiff was sure" and then suggested that plaintiff "obtain an expensive genetic test to see if she could qualify as Native American or American Indian to garner better chances of being accepted to Jefferson." The officer also allegedly told Katchur that "she advised a past Caucasian applicant to obtain a genetic test, that the applicant learned that he was partially African American, and that he was accepted into Jefferson on account of his race."

Following the incident, Katchur filed a complaint with the medical school about the discussion and was subsequently rejected and sued the school, "charging multiple forms of discrimination." The medical school requested that the suit be dismissed and Judge Michael M. Baylson dismissed some charges, but allowed the racial discrimination claim to go forward. The college argued that Katchur did not offer “any direct evidence that the discussion of her race came up at all, let alone in a discriminatory way, during the review of her application." Judge Baylson ruled that telling Katchur she "would be granted admission to Jefferson if she were African American amounts to overt or explicit evidence which directly reflects discriminatory bias by a decision maker." Furthermore, the issue of racial discrimination is "serious enough to warrant legal attention even given the traditional deference of courts to colleges and universities on academic matters.

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