Student claims college professor failed her for being Muslim


CRANFORD, N.J. — A student is suing a New Jersey college and claiming her professor gave her an F in a course because she is Muslim, CBS New York reports.

In the lawsuit, Sahna ElBanna alleges that in spring 2016 she endured a semester’s worth of derogatory comments about Muslims from professor Toby Grodner at Union County College.

Grodner allegedly said that all Muslims were terrorists, but ElBanna didn’t say anything at the time. She received a B-plus in that class.

ElBanna signed up for a second class with Grodner in the fall because she needed the course to graduate, according to her lawyer, Tariq Hussain.

The professor made more comments about Muslims, and ElBanna asked her to stop, according to the lawsuit.

“My client did her best to, sort of, ignore those comments and move forward with her class,” Hussain told CBS New York. “At one point, my client made a comment to the professor, telling her that she, the professor, shouldn’t be making those comments about Muslims, that it’s encouraging or fostering an atmosphere of hate in the classroom.”

Grodner responded defensively and asked questions about her religion, the lawsuit said.

“Doesn’t your religion believe men are superior to women?” Grodner asked ElBanna, according to the lawsuit.

“Do you even pray five times a day?” the professor asked her in another instance, the lawsuit said.

Grodner did not respond to messages seeking comment Thursday.

In a statement to CBS New York, Union County College Vice President Bernard Lenihan said the college had not been served with the complaint and could not speak to specific allegations. Lenihan said an allegation had been filed with the college’s Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action Officer and Title IX Coordinator.

“It is the stated policy of Union County College that the College is committed to provide an environment of mutual respect and trust, which is free of all forms of discrimination,” Lenihan said in the statement. “Consequently, all allegations of behavior alleging violations of this core principle are vigorously investigated.”

In January, ElBanna discovered she received an F in the course despite receiving two A’s on assignments worth 60 percent of her grade, the lawsuit said. Grodner confirmed ElBanna received an A on her midterm and final, according to the suit, but she said ElBanna received F’s on several multimedia assignments.

“She was robbed of her dignity in the classroom,” the lawsuit stated.

ElBanna tried to appeal her grade, but college policy requires an instructor signature on the appeal form. Grodner refused twice, according to the lawsuit. The dean did not get involved because the appeal lacked Grodner’s signature.

“She went in to talk to the administrative board to appeal her grade,” Hussain said. “She was instructed that in order to submit the grade for an appeal, she has to get the professor’s signature on it. And the complaint states what happened in that incident: The professor refused to sign. The professor sort of stood by her claim, told my client she was being disrespectful, and just flat out refused to sing the appeal form.”

ElBanna’s grade could delay her graduation, according to her lawyer. Hussain said she would have to pay to make up the course.

ElBanna is still a student at the college, and she has passed all her other classes, the attorney said.

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