SARAVANAN v. DREXEL UNIVERSITY
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE MARK A. KEARNEY ON 11/24/2017. 11/24/2017 ENTERED AND COPIES E-MAILED.(sg, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
November 24, 2017
Universities managing disciplinary processes evaluating freshmen students' conduct in a
dysfunctional romance must strive to ensure fairness including avoiding inherent bias or
procedures which may favor a woman's claim of sexual harassment and stalking over a man's
claim of sexual assault by the woman.
We appreciate the disciplinary process is painstakingly
difficult in the he-said/she-said drama of a failed romance between college freshmen.
affording this process, the university must work to ensure accessing and resolving highly charged
sexual misconduct claims does not differ based on the gender of the complaining student.
After dismissing his unwieldly complaint with leave to file an amended complaint, we
now review a male student's amended civil rights claim arising from a university's alleged
discriminatory treatment and disposition of his former partner's claim against him resulting in
his expulsion. While still not entirely clear, he now pleads a plausible civil rights claim under a
Title IX erroneous outcome theory.
After two attempts, the male student still does not plead a
Title IX claim under selective enforcement or deliberate indifference theories. He also does not
plead claims based on his race, color or national origin requiring we dismiss his Title VI and
Section 1981 claims. Proceeding on one Title IX theory, we exercise supplemental jurisdiction
over his breach of contract and unfair trade practices act claims subject to discovery.
Alleged Facts 1
Karthik Saravanan, a male South Asian of the Indian race, challenges Drexel University's
decision to expel him for stalking and sexually harassing a white female fellow freshman
student, J.K., with whom he maintained a romantic relationship. 2
Drexel investigated sexual
misconduct claims from Mr. Saravanan and J.K. Drexel reached different results: expelling Mr.
Saravanan and imposing retroactive probation on J.K.
Referring to the statements of the Honorable Carolyn Engel Temin, Appeal Adjudicator,
Mr. Saravanan alleges Drexel imposed a harsher sanction upon him than J.K. as he "was given a
sanction of Expulsion from Drexel effective March 20, 2017 [while J.K.] was given a sanction of
Disciplinary Probation retroactively effective to run from August 25, 2015 to August 25, 2016.
Since the sanction was imposed on March 20, 2017, it was, in effect, no sanction at all."3 Mr.
Saravanan claims Drexel discriminated against him on the basis of his race and sex when it "was
deliberately indifferent to [his] initial reports and to [his] sworn in Court testimony that J.K.
sexually assaulted him[ ... ] and later Drexel knew of J.K.'s admission that she had 'misbehaved'
and that [he] said 'no,' 4 instituted the disciplinary proceedings against him, 5 and imposed an
excessively severe" sanction on him compared to Drexel's retroactive probation for J.K. 6
Mr. Saravanan argues he "alleges facts to support a presumption of a pattern of gender
discrimination suggesting gender bias flawed the disciplinary process against him and in J.K.'s
favor." 7 He claims this gender bias is not limited to his own proceeding and refers to a "deeply
biased document" distributed by Drexel's Public Safety titled "Date Rape/Acquaintance Rape"
detailing "Drexel's pro-female and anti-male bias" by portraying women as victims of sexual
assault and men as perpetrators. 8 The document provides "Advice for Women" to avoid rape
while providing "Advice for Men" to "[t]hink about whether you really want to have sex with a
women who does not want to have sex with you." 9 Mr. Saravanan alleges Drexel's "staff
training materials for taking reports and carrying out investigations of on campus sexual assault
[ ... ]inherently portray the woman as the victim of the man." 10
A. Mr. Saravanan's claim against J.K. results in her retroactive probation.
Mr. Saravanan claims J.K. sexually assaulted him on August 18, 2015 and then "stalked
and abused [him] to keep quiet about her assaulting him," including "threatening to tell their
social group that [he] was mentally disabled or a homosexual," manipulating him into buying her
gifts, and engaging in "a pattern of bullying, stalking, ridiculing, and terrorizing, including
slapping him, in order to prevent him from reporting to Drexel." 11 He claims J.K. admitted to
the sexual assault in a Snapchat. 12
Mr. Saravanan claims he reported the assault to Drexel "at least two times," but Drexel's
Office of Equality and Diversity 13 "responded that the complaints could not be investigated
unless the other victims came forward." 14 At some point, Mr. Saravanan claims he obtained a
protection from abuse order against J.K., which she later violated. 15 When he provided Robert
Lis, a member of Drexel's staff, with service of process documents to be served on J.K. for
violation of the protection from abuse order, Mr. Lis allegedly responded: "I don't think we do
that for guys, I am pretty sure that's for girls only, but let me check that and I will get back to
you." 16 Mr. Saravanan claims he "extensively reported his experience of being the victim of
J.K. 's sexual assault and stalking" to Drexel's staff, and Mr. Lis stated "he was in the wrong
office to file his report of sexual abuse against J .K. and thus did nothing to protect him other than
send him to the Philadelphia Police, SVU." 17 He alleges Mr. Lis also stated '"I have never heard
of a' female raping a male." 18 Mr. Saravanan alleges Drexel charged him with "retaliation
against J.K. when all [he] did was follow standard court procedure after J.K. violated her
[protection from abuse order] and stalked" him. 19 Mr. Saravanan alleges Michelle Rovinsky, one
of Drexel's "staff trainers" asked him '"are you here to stalk J.K.?' when he visited Drexel's
Title IX office to report J.K. 's sexual assault. 20
Mr. Saravanan claims he reported the sexual assault allegations to at least seven Drexel
employees "with authority to institute corrective measures given Mr. Saravanan's reports" and
each individual "was deliberately indifferent to his report of that misconduct and his request for
and right to be protected from J.K." 21 Mr. Saravanan alleges Drexel chose to "do nothing" in
response to his claims against J.K. 22
Mr. Saravanan alleges several of Drexel's employees who had authority during the
disciplinary proceedings made statements indicating gender bias against him as a male reporting
a female for sexual assault. 23 He claims one university official classified his rape claim as
"ludicrous" and said "she had 'never heard of a woman raping a man."' 24
proceeding, Jena Perez, a university official, asked Mr. Saravanan "why was your penis erect
then? Doesn't that mean that you enjoyed it?" when he "reported his rape experience to her."25
He also claims Ms. Perez "took out, omitted, or otherwise failed to investigate the information"
Mr. Saravanan's witnesses during the proceeding offered in favor of him and against J.K. 26 Mr.
Saravanan alleges Ms. Perez asked one of his witnesses "gender biased questions" including if
the witness "had ever done anything like this to women" and "if he agreed that J.K. was the
victim." 27 He claims Ms. Perez asked another witness if Mr. Saravanan "generally assaulted
B. J.K.'s claims result in Mr. Saravanan's expulsion.
Mr. Saravanan alleges J.K. (at some undefined time) "falsely accused [him] of sexually
harassing and of stalking J.K." and Drexel responded by instituting a disciplinary hearing against
him. 29 Following his disciplinary proceeding, Drexel found him guilty and expelled him. 30 Mr.
Saravanan, after two attempts, does not plead other facts regarding to progress or nature of the
hearing on J.K.'s claims against him.
In his first complaint, Mr. Saravanan sued Drexel under Title IX and Title VI along with
state law claims. We dismissed Mr. Saravanan's original federal claims for failing to adequately
plead a federal claim and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over his state law
claims. 32 We provided Mr. Saravanan "one last chance to amend, if he can in good faith, to
plead facts of discriminatory intent and animus necessary to proceed on civil rights claims."33
Having reduced the rhetoric, Mr. Saravanan filed an amended complaint alleging: (1) Title IX reverse discrimination; (2) Title IX - deliberate indifference to Mr. Saravanan' s sexual assault
and sexual hostility reports; (3) Title VI; (4) Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act; (5) breach of
contract; and (6) unfair and deceptive trade practices. 34 Drexel now moves to dismiss his
A. We deny Drexel's motion to dismiss Mr. Saravanan's Title IX claim based
solely on the erroneous outcome theory.
Mr. Saravanan claims Drexel's actions before, during, and after the disciplinary hearing
constituted discrimination on the basis of his gender in violation of Title IX. He alleges three
Title IX theories: (1) erroneous outcome, (2) selective enforcement, and (3) deliberate
indifference. 36 Under Title IX of the Education Act Amendments of 1972, "[n]o person in the
United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits
of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal
financial assistance." 37 Title IX prohibits universities from imposing "discipline where gender is
a motivating factor in the decision to discipline."38 In bringing a Title IX claim, a plaintiff must
allege facts the university discriminated against him because of sex. 39 Recitation of "conclusory
assertions" is insufficient in claiming discrimination on the basis of race or sex against a
university. 40 As a male, Mr. Saravanan claims reverse discrimination. 41 To plead reverse
discrimination, Mr. Saravanan must show "evidence permitting a fact finder to conclude that the
employer is treating some people less favorably than other people, based upon gender." 42
1. Mr. Saravanan pleads a claim under erroneous outcome theory.
Mr. Saravanan must allege he is "innocent and wrongly found to have committed an
offense" to plead a Title IX erroneous outcome theory claim. 43
In reviewing Drexel's
proceedings, we may not "advocate for best practices nor [ ... ] retry disciplinary
proceedings. " 44 Mere allegations a flawed proceeding "led to an adverse and erroneous outcome
combined with a conclusory allegation of gender discrimination" does not satisfy an erroneous
outcome claim. 45 Mr. Saravanan must allege "particular circumstances suggesting that gender
bias was a motivating factor behind the erroneous finding." 46 Facts stating an erroneous
outcome claim include, "statements by members of the disciplinary tribunal, statements by
pertinent university officials, or patterns of decision-making that also tend to show the influence
of gender. ,,47
Mr. Saravanan need not necessarily allege "arguably inculpatory statements by a
representative of the [u]niversity." In Doe v. The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, a
male student claimed discrimination on the basis of gender against the university during its
disciplinary proceedings against him after a female student accused him of rape.
looked at the plaintiffs allegations of gender bias in the training materials provided to university
employees and possible bias in favor of complainants of sexual assault on the part of the
university's officials and concluded "taken together and read in the light most favorable to the
[p]laintiff," the complaint "set forth sufficient circumstances suggesting inherent and
impermissible gender bias to support a plausible claim" under erroneous outcome theory. 49
Mr. Saravanan claims because of his gender, "Drexel deprived him of his Title IX rights"
and "imposed sanctions on [him] that were excessively severe and to the benefit of J.K. because
of her sex in violation of Title IX." 50 He also claims Drexel knew of J.K.'s admission to the
sexual assault in a Snapchat and still failed to properly investigate and charge her. 51 Mr.
Saravanan pleads "the two OED employees who took his telephone report, Ms. Spiller, Mr. Lis,
Ms. Perez, Mr. Rupprecht and Ms. Rovinsky, is a Drexel employee with authority to institute
corrective measures given Mr. Saravanan's reports." 52 Mr. Saravanan alleges Drexel charged
him "with retaliation against J.K. when all [he] did was follow standard court procedure after
J.K. violated" the Protection From Abuse order and refers to Mr. G.R.'s statement Mr. Saravanan
called 911 when J.K. violated the order. 53 He claims Ms. Spiller, who is either a Drexel official
or a member of Drexel's disciplinary proceeding, characterized his rape claim as "ludicrous" and
told him and his attorney she has "never heard of a woman raping a man." 54 Mr. Saravanan
alleges Ms. Spiller "acted as J.K.'s de-facto attorney" and informed him in writing she would not
assist him and "chose to assist J.K. against him." 55
Mr. Saravanan alleges Mr. Robert Lis similarly stated "I have never heard of a" female
raping a male to Mr. Saravanan and characterized Mr. Saravanan's sexual assault report as "it
just seems to me like he[ ... ] is trying to get back at her [J.K.]." 56 Mr. Saravanan alleges during
a meeting, Mr. Lis admitted Mr. Rupprecht held a similar opinion. 57 He also claims Mr. Lis
stated, "I've been doing this for thirty years and I've never heard of a guy his age being so scared
of a girl." 58 Mr. Saravanan alleges when he approached Mr. Lis with "service of process
documents to be served on J.K. as a result of her violation of the [protection from abuse order],
and told him he needed protection from her, which Mr. Lis refused to provide, stating with a
gender biased deliberate indifference: 'I don't think we do that for guys, I am pretty sure that's
for girls only, but let me check that and I will get back to you."' 59
He also claims Michelle Rovinsky asked him "are you here to stalk J.K. ?" when he
visited Drexel's Title IX office to report J .K. 's sexual assault. 60 He pleads Ms. Rovinsky is one
of Drexel's "staff trainers" and the "staff training materials for taking reports and carrying out
investigations on campus sexual assault [... ] inherently portray the woman as the victim of the
man." 61 He claims Drexel did not properly train its staff to not "[fall prey to its gender and race
biases. " 62
Referring to the statements of witnesses Mr. M.L. and Mr. G.R., Mr. Saravanan alleges
Jena Perez "asked gender biased questions" including if M.L. "had ever done anything like this
to other women" and if Mr. G.R. and Mr. Saravanan "generally assaulted women." 63 He claims
Ms. Perez asked him, "why was your penis erect then? Doesn't that mean that you enjoyed it?"
when he reported the assault. 64 He alleges Ms. Perez asked Mr. M.L. "if he agreed that J.K. was
the victim." 65 Mr. Saravanan claims Ms. Perez also "took out, omitted, or otherwise failed to
investigate and record the information that Mr. M.L. and Mr. G.R. told Ms. Perez to be put into
the report; this information favored [him] and disfavored J.K." 66
Mr. Saravanan cites to a "deeply biased document" distributed by Drexel's Public Safety
titled "Date Rape/Acquaintance Rape" detailing "Drexel's pro-female and anti-male bias" by
portraying women as victims of sexual assault and men as perpetrators. 67 The document
provides "Advice for Women" to avoid rape while providing "Advice for Men" to "[t]hink about
whether you really want to have sex with a women who does not want to have sex with you." 68
Mr. Saravanan's allegations taken together indicate a possible culture of gender bias
against males claiming sexual assault by females. Similar to the university in Doe, where the
court concluded the plaintiffs allegations of gender bias by the university's staff taken together
plead a Title IX erroneous outcome claim, Mr. Saravanan's allegations of the staffs statements
and alleged response to his claims against J.K. indicate Drexel's gender bias against Mr.
Saravanan claiming sexual assault against a female. Mr. Saravanan's allegations against Drexel
are arguably more egregious than the plaintiffs allegation in Doe as Mr. Saravanan alleges
multiple statements from a number of Drexel's staff "with the authority to institute corrective
measures" 69 indicating gender bias against male complainants of sexual assault. The statements
and actions of Drexel's employees, one of whom is a staff trainer, 70 coupled with the alleged
response, or lack thereof, of Drexel's OED office to his complaint against J.K., and Drexel's
"Date/Acquaintance Rape" publication suggest "gender bias was a motivating factor behind the
erroneous finding" in Mr. Saravanan's and J.K.'s disciplinary proceedings. 71
2. Mr. Saravanan does not plead a Title IX selective enforcement
Mr. Saravanan again fails to plead a selective enforcement claim against Drexel. In a
selective enforcement case, he must plead "regardless of the student's guilt or innocence, the
severity of the penalty and/or the decision to initiate the proceeding was affected by the student's
gender." 72 A male plaintiff must allege "a female was in circumstances sufficiently similar to his
own and was treated more favorably" by the university. 73 To consider a student similarly
situated, "the individuals with whom a plaintiff seeks to be compared must have engaged in the
same conduct without such differentiating or mitigating circumstances that would distinguish
their conduct or the [school's] treatment of them for it."" 74
Mr. Saravanan must allege "circumstances suggesting that gender bias was a motivating
factor behind the inconsistency" in the university's disciplinary proceedings. 75 In Yusuf v.
Vassar College, a Bengali male plaintiff failed to plead a selective enforcement theory claim
when he alleged he received a greater punishment from a university for sexual harassment than a
white male accused of physically attacking him. 76 The court concluded the plaintiff failed to
allege facts indicating a bias on the basis of gender and, at best, the facts allege the panel in the
white male's disciplinary proceeding "displayed an unusual tolerance of physical violence,"
which does not equate to selective enforcement. 77
Mr. Saravanan's reliance on Doe v. Amherst College 78 to argue he and J.K. are similarly
situated comparators is inapposite. While the Amherst College case involves a similar
dysfunctional male-female relationship, its facts are distinguishable. In Doe v. Amherst College,
a male and female student allegedly engaged in sexual activity while intoxicated and accused
each other of sexual assault. 79 The court concluded the plaintiff pled selective enforcement
theory because the university encouraged the female student to file a formal complaint against
the male student, but did not provide the same encouragement for the male student or even
investigate his claims even though he alleged the same conduct against the female student arising
out of the same circumstances. 80
Mr. Saravanan concedes he and J.K. "did not accuse each other of the same conduct." 81
He claims, "he was falsely accused of sexually harassing and of stalking J.K." 82 and alleges J.K.
"was found guilty of sexually harassing" him. 83 Mr. Saravanan claims J.K. is a '"similarly
situated' comparator," but does not allege Drexel charged and disciplined J.K. for stalking, only
sexual harassment. 84 It is unclear from the complaint if Mr. Saravanan accused J.K. of stalking
in the disciplinary process. Without alleging Drexel charged and disciplined J.K. or another
female with the same conduct it charged him, Mr. Saravanan is unable to plead a Title IX
selective enforcement claim. 85
3. Mr. Saravanan fails to plead a Title IX deliberate indifference
Mr. Saravanan fails to plead a Title IX claim under the deliberate indifference theory.
Deliberate indifference claims may proceed when "a plaintiff seeks to hold an institution liable
for sexual harassment and requires the plaintiff to demonstrate that an official of the institution
who had authority to institute corrective measures had actual notice of, and was deliberately
indifferent to, the misconduct." 86 Deliberate indifference is characterized as "an official decision
by [the institution] not to remedy the violation" 87 In Doe v. Brown University, the court held
deliberate indifference typically applies when "a school has ignored a victim's complaint of
sexual harassment or assault." 88
The court held to establish deliberate indifference, the
university's response to the claimed gender bias must be "clearly unreasonable in light of the
known circumstances. "'89 Deliberate indifference may apply "when intentional discrimination
has occurred in a case where a student has relied on Title IX to challenge either the initiation or
the outcome of a disciplinary proceeding."90
Deliberate indifference claims impose a significant burden on the plaintiff and
consequently rarely proceed beyond a motion to dismiss. 91 In Wells v. Xavier University, a court
denied a motion to dismiss a deliberate indifference claim in a case where a university enabled a
disciplinary proceeding to go forward against a student accused of rape even after the prosecutor
warned the allegations were unfounded. 92 The court concluded the university's president
allowed the "defective hearing" to proceed "with the goal of demonstrating [ ... ] that Xavier was
taking assault allegations seriously." 93 The court found the complaint indicated the defendant
university had "adequate notice" to the claim the university's president "was deliberately
indifferent to the [p]laintiffs rights." 94
Mr. Saravanan does not plead facts similar to the claims in Wells to satisfy a Title IX
claim under the deliberate indifference theory. Unlike in Wells, where the university instituted
disciplinary proceedings even after the prosecutor informed the university of the falsity of the
accusations against the plaintiff, Mr. Saravanan does not allege the university instituted the
disciplinary action against him under similar circumstances or outright ignored his allegations
Mr. Saravanan does not plead Drexel's actions against him occurred under
circumstances where the university had reason to believe the accusations against him were false,
like the plaintiff in Wells, but rather he disputes the severity of the punishment he received in
comparison to J.K.'s punishment. 95
His claims also indicate Drexel took some disciplinary action against J.K., even if J.K.
received a lesser punishment. 96 While deliberate indifference often applies when a university
ignores an individual's complaints of sexual assault, 97 Mr. Saravanan has not plead facts
showing Drexel outright ignored his complaints of sexual assault against J.K. Mr. Saravanan
alleges Drexel chose to "do nothing" in response to his claims against J.K., 98 but pleads J.K.
"was found guilty of sexually harassing [him] and not expelled," which indicates Drexel did in
fact respond to his complaints and institute some disciplinary proceeding against her. 99 Mr.
Saravanan has not met the significant burden of pleading a Title IX deliberate indifference claim.
B. Mr. Saravanan fails to allege Drexel discriminated against him on the basis
of his race, color, or national origin in violation of Title VI.
Mr. Saravanan's allegations do not plead Title VI discrimination. Title VI of the Civil
Rights Act provides, "[n]o person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or
national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to
discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." 100 A
plaintiff need not demonstrate discrimination through direct evidence. 101 To show a prima facie
Title VI claim, Mr. Saravanan must plead he was a member of a protected class qualified for the
educational benefit or program at issue and he suffered an adverse action occurring "under
circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination." 102 Mr. Saravanan must allege
"'intentional discrimination,' which may be supported by allegations of either discriminatory
animus or deliberate indifference." 103 "The 'central focus' of the prima facie case 'is always
whether the employer is treating "some people less favorably than others because of" race or
national origin. 104
Mr. Saravanan again fails to allege Drexel intentionally discriminated against him on the
basis of his race. His pleadings satisfy the first three elements of a prima facie Title VI claim:
( 1) he, a South Asian individual of the Indian race, is a member of a protected class; 105 (2) as a
student at Drexel, he qualified for the educational benefit at issue; 106 and (3) he suffered an
adverse action through his expulsion, "handcuffing and [removal] from his dorm," segregation
from campus, and the posting "on campus a flyer with many forms of identifiable information
about him like his name, student ID number, and face." 107 But Mr. Saravanan fails to plead the
fourth and final requirement of a prima facie Title VI claim: he suffered the adverse action
"under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination." 108
He again repeatedly and conclusively alleges Drexel discriminated against him on the
basis of his race without pleading facts showing how Drexel's conduct against him gave rise to
an inference of discrimination. 109 He claims Drexel's staff used "race-bigoted statements" and
"race-prejudiced, enabling statements," without pleading the statements. 110 He alleges only Mr.
Lis said something to him about "English lessons," but does not plead the context of this
statement or what Mr. Lis actually said to him to indicate its "race-prejudiced" intention.
Saravanan also pleads he is a native English speaker. 112
Mr. Saravanan claims "on information and belief," Drexel "treats non-Indian respondents
to disciplinary procedures like this one better than it treated" him, but does not plead facts. 113 He
claims "on information and belief that non-minority respondents of sexual assault, stalking, or
their combination are treated better than he was treated as he responded to these charges," 114 but
then references only the disparity in punishment he received in comparison to J.K. without
alleging facts this disparity occurred "under circumstances giving rise to an inference of
. . . . ,,115
Mr. Saravanan's blanket claim "[s]chools in the US such as Drexel have a pattern of
intentional discrimination against male students of color like Mr. Saravanan by applying harsher
discipline to them than to their white comparators" is conclusive and does not indicate Drexel
discriminated against him on the basis of his race in his disciplinary proceeding. 116 The article
he references to support this claim addresses racial disparities in school disciplinary proceedings
generally, but does not name Drexel or any of its representatives. 117 Mr. Saravanan does not
plead facts of Drexel deliberately discriminating against him on the basis of his race. We have
no fact evidencing intent to harm him in the disciplinary process because he is of a different race
than his former girlfriend or the Drexel investigators.
He fails to plead a claim under Title VI.
C. Mr. Saravanan fails to plead facts supporting his § 1981 claim.
Mr. Saravanan claims Drexel violated "its own contract and policy" by investigating,
evaluating, and disciplining him while ignoring his allegations against J.K. "because of
intentional animosity towards his race." 118 Under of the Civil Rights Act, "[a]ll persons within
the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to
make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of
all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens,
and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of every
kind, and to no other." 119 To assert a§ 1981 claim, Mr. Saravanan must plead: (1) he "belongs
to a racial minority; (2) 'an intent to discriminate on the basis of race by the defendant; and (3)
discrimination concerning one or more of the activities enumerated in,'" such as in contractual
relationships, to adequately plead a claim under § 1981. 120 A defendant's actions must be
"purposefully discriminatory[ ... ] and racially motivated." 121
In Albert v. Caronavo, the court dismissed the § 1981 claim because "[t]he naked
allegation that appellees 'selectively enforc[ed] the College rules ... against plaintiffs ... because
they are black [or] Latin' is too conclusory to survive a motion to dismiss." 122 The court in Yusuf
v. Vassar College similarly dismissed a § 1981 claim as "conclusory" and found the plaintiff
"has offered no reason to suspect that his being found guilty of sexual harassment had anything
to do with his race, other than his assertion that the panel members were white and that he is
Similar to the plaintiff in Yusuf, whose § 1981 claim rested on the fact the university
panel members were of a different race than he,
Mr. Saravanan claims "Drexel's staff
involved in the charge, investigation, and punishment phases of this matter, all of them White or
Latino, showed racist animosity." 125 He also concludes Drexel favored J.K. over him during the
disciplinary proceedings because she is white. 126 This broad conclusion lacks factual support
other than he and J.K. are of different races or the Drexel investigators were of a different race.
This conclusory allegation of race based discrimination based solely on different races is
Mr. Saravanan attempts to show Drexel's intent to discriminate by referencing to an
article addressing racial disparities in school disciplinary proceedings generally, as well as two
other cases involving students similarly claiming Drexel applied harsher discipline to them on
the basis of their race and gender. 127 The referenced article does not name Drexel or specifically
address Drexel's disciplinary proceedings and we are unable to use this material to assess
whether Drexel purposefully discriminated against Mr. Saravanan on the basis of his race.
Similarly, we are unable to assess the nature and conclusions of the two cases brought by
students against Drexel because Mr. Saravanan's reference to these two cases does not show
Drexel's disciplinary proceedings against him were "purposefully discriminatory [ ... ] and
racially motivated. " 128
As he did in his original complaint, Mr. Saravanan again conclusively alleges Drexel
acted against him with racial animus, but fails to plead facts showing Drexel purposefully
discriminated against him because of his race.
D. We exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Mr. Saravanan's breach of
contract and unfair and deceptive trade practices claims.
Drexel moves to dismiss the remaining state law claims arguing we lack jurisdiction if we
dismiss the federal claims. It does not challenge the substance of these claims in the Amended
Mr. Saravanan's claims for breach of contract and violation of the Pennsylvania Uniform
Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law arise under Pennsylvania state law. A district
court has "original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties
of the United States." 129 When a district court has original jurisdiction over a claim, it may
exercise " supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the
action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under
Article III of the United States Constitution." 130 The state law claims must share "a common
nucleus of operative fact" in order for the federal court to exercise supplemental jurisdiction.
In Young v. Pleasant Valley School District, the district court denied a motion to dismiss a Title
IX claim and exercised supplemental jurisdiction over the related Pennsylvania state law
negligent supervision claim. 132 We elect to do the same.
Mr. Saravanan's state law claims for breach of contract and violation of the Pennsylvania
Uniform Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law arise under the same facts as his Title IX
claim. For the convenience of the parties, we will exercise jurisdiction over the state law claims.
Mr. Saravanan challenges Drexel's manner of investigating and resolving allegations of
his misconduct following a failed personal relationship with a female student. Following an
internal disciplinary process, Drexel expelled Mr. Saravanan.
He initially claimed Drexel's
expulsion is based on gender, race and national origin discrimination in the broadest and
conclusory fashion. We dismissed his initial complaint. After granting him leave to amend, Mr.
Saravanan now pleads a Title IX erroneous outcome theory claim based on gender bias
motivating Drexel's investigation and expulsion sanction. While Mr. Saravanan's alleged facts
indicate bias on the basis of gender, he fails to plead Drexel discriminated against him on the
basis of his race, color, or national origin in violation of Title VI or § 1981. As we will proceed
into discovery on the Title IX claim and absent a substantive challenge to his breach of contract
and deceptive trade practices claims, we exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Mr. Saravanan's
state law claims. In the accompanying Order, we grant Drexel's motion to dismiss in part and
deny in part.
Mr. Saravanan' s amended complaint continues his pleading style of rhetoric and conclusions
rather than a short and plain statement of his claim. Pleading under Rule 8 is not a speech or
editorial. He offers little or no chronology and our recitation of plead facts is based on our best
understanding of the events affecting him in a chronology we can discern.
ECF Doc. No. 14.
Id. at~ 18.
Id. at~ 75.
Id. at~ 63, 86.
Id. at~ 71.
Id. at~ 17.
Id. at~ 19; ECF Doc. No. 14-14.
ECF Doc. No. 14-14.
Id. at~ 21.
Id. at~~ 31-32, 40.
Id. at if 36.
Mr. Saravanan refers to "OED" in the complaint, but does not define the acronym.
understand OED refers to Drexel's Office of Equality and Diversity.
ECF Doc. No. 14 at~ 32.
Id. at~ 34.
Id. at~ 35.
Id. at~ 14.
Id. at~ 12.
Id. at~ 15.
Id. at~ 37.
Id. at ir 33.
Id. at ir 37.
Id. at ir 13.
Id. at ir 16.
Id. at ir 17.
Id. at~ 16.
Id. at ir 38.
Id. at~~ 28, 29, 58, 103.
In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), we accept all well-pleaded allegations in
the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party, but
we "are not compelled to accept unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inference, or a legal
conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Castleberry v. ST! Group, 863 F.3d 259, 263 (3d
Cir. 2017) (quoting Morrow v. Balaski, 719 F.3d 160, 165 (3d Cir. 2013)). "To survive a motion
to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face."' Edinboro Coll. Park Apartments v. Edinboro Univ.
Found., 850 F.3d 567, 572 (3d Cir. 2017) (quoting In re Vehicle Carrier Serv. Antitrust Litig.,
846 F.3d 71, 79 n.4 (3d Cir. 2017)). A claim satisfies the plausibility standard when the facts
alleged "allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged." Maiden Creek Assoc., L.P. v. US. Dep't ofTransp., 823 F.3d 184, 189 (3d
Cir. 2016) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). While the plausibility standard
is not "akin to a 'probability requirement,"' there nevertheless must be more than a "sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556). "Where a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's
liability, it 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief."'
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
Our Court of Appeals requires we apply a three-step analysis under a 12(b)(6) motion: (1) "it
must 'tak[e] note of the elements [the] plaintiff must plead to state a claim;"' (2) "it should
identify allegations that, 'because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the
assumption of truth;"' and, (3) "[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations, [the] court
should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an
entitlement for relief." Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016)
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675, 679).
ECF Doc. No. 12.
Id. at 1.
ECF Doc. No. 14.
ECF Doc. No. 15.
ECF Doc. No. 14 at 'i['i[ 9-37, 59-80.
20 U.S.C. § 1681(a).
Yusufv. Vassar Coll., 35 F.3d 709, 715 (2d Cir. 1994).
Winter v. Penn. State Univ., 172 F.Supp.3d 756, 776 (M.D.Pa. 2016).
Yusuf, 35 F.3d at 713.
ECF Doc. No. 14 at 'i['i[ 9-22, 59-73.
Kahan v. Slippery Rock Univ. of Penn., 50 F.Supp.3d 667, 687 (W.D.Pa. 2014).
Id. at 715.
Yu v. Vassar College, 97 F.Supp.3d 448, 461 (S.D.N.Y. 2015).
Kahan, 50 F.Supp.3d at 715.
Doe v. Univ. of Penn., No. 16-5088, 2017 WL 4049033, at *15 (E.D.Pa. Sept. 13, 2017)
(quoting Yusuf, 35 F.3d at 715). See also Harris v. St. Joseph's Univ., No. 13-3937, 2014 WL
12618076, at *2 n.3 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 26, 2014)(citation omitted)(complaint claiming a university
"adopted a policy favoring female accusers" because the university "was concerned about Title
IX charges by female students" sufficiently pied gender bias); Doe v. Brown Univ., 166 F. Supp.
3d 177, 189 (D.R.I. 2016)(complaint alleged gender bias when it pied: (1) a former university
employee stated the university treats male students "guilty, until proven innocent" and assumed
"it's always the 'boy's fault,'" (2) a professor stated "'there is gender bias that is overwhelming at
Brown' when referencing sexual misconduct cases at Brown," and (3) a University professor
agreed that the "culture of thinking" on the campus is that "males are 'bad"' and "females are
Univ. of Penn., 2017 WL 4049033, at *15-16.
Id. (plaintiff alleged: (1) the university established its disciplinary procedures to favor females
complainants and disfavor respondents, most of whom are male; (2) the university's women's
center published guidelines for students on its sexual violence policy referring to complainants of
sexual assault as "victims/survivors;" (3) university personnel publicly advocated for colleges
and universities to "strengthen protection of victims by engaging in 'victimcentered respons[es];"' (4) training materials given to the university's staff involved in
disciplinary proceedings encouraged employees to "believe the accuser and presume the
accused's guilt;" (5) the university implemented pro-complainant policies in response to
criticism it received "for not taking the complaints of female students sufficiently seriously.")
ECF Doc. No. 14 at ifif 69-71.
Id. at if 10, 40.
Id. at if 37.
Id. at if 12.
Id. at if 13.
Id. at ifif 12-13.
Id. at if 14.
Id. at if 34.
Id. at if 15.
Id. at if 21.
Id. at if 53.
Id. at if 16.
Id. at if 17.
Id. at if 19; ECF Doc. No. 14-14.
ECF Doc. No. 14-14.
ECF Doc. No. 14 at if 37.
Id. at ii 21.
Kahan, 50 F.Supp.3d at 715.
Yusuf, 35 F.3d at 715.
Tafuto v. NJ. Inst. of Tech., No. 1~521, 2011 WL 3163240, at *2 (D.N.J. July 26, 2011)
(quoting Mallory v. Ohio Univ., 76 Fed. Appx. 634, 641 (6th Cir.2003)).
Kev. Drexel Univ., No. 11-6708, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 118211, at *59 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 4.
2015) (quoting Bailey v. United Airlines, No. 97-5223, 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11636, at *9
(E.D. Pa. June 26, 2002))(emphasis added).
Harris, 2014 WL 1910242, at *4 (quoting Scott v. Worldstarhiphop, Inc., No. 10 Civ. 9538,
2011 WL 5082410, *4 (S.D.N.Y.201 l)(quoting Yusuf, 35 F.3d at 715.)).
Yusuf, 35 F.3d at 716.
Yusuf, 35 F.3d at 716.
While we are mindful of the arguments addressed in his reply brief, Mr. Saravanan has not
pled he and J.K. are similarly situated for the selective enforcement theory to apply. Discovery
may allow a good faith pleading of alternative theories under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15 but they are not
pled in the amended complaint.
Doe v. Amherst College, 238 F.Supp.3d 195, 208-210 (D. Mass. 2017).
Amherst College, 238 F.Supp.3d at 223.
ECF Doc. No. 14 at ii 24.
Id. at ii 38.
Id. at ii 23.
Ke, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 118211, at *59.
Mallory, 76 Fed.Appx. at 638 (citing Gebser v. Lago Vista Indep. Sch. Dist., 524 U.S. 274,
Harden v. Rosie 99 A.3d 950, 956 (Pa. Commwlth. Ct. 2014)(quoting Gebser v. Kago Vista
Independent School Dist., 524 U.S. 274, 290 (1998)).
Doe v. Brown Univ., 166 F.Supp.3d 177, 191(D.R.I.2016).
Brown Univ., 166 F.Supp.3d at 190-91 (quoting Doe v. Univ. of the South, 687 F.Supp.2d 744,
757 (E.D.Tenn. 2009)).
Univ. of Penn., 2017 WL 4049033, at *21 (quoting Mallory, 76 Fed.Appx. at 638-39). See
also Brown Univ., 166 F.Supp.3d at 191 (deliberate indifference is usually raised when an
institution ignored a sexual harassment or assault complaint); Univ. of the South, 687 F.Supp.2d
at 757 (deliberate indifference claim dismissed because facts failed to show university's actions
constituted sexual harassment).
Brown Univ., 166 F.Supp.3d at 191 ("The only case of which the Court is aware in which
a deliberate indifference claim has been allowed to go forward in a case like this one is Wells [v.
Wells v. Xavier Univ., 7 F.Supp.3d 746, 751 (S.D. Ohio 2014).
ECF Doc. No. 14 at~~ 18, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 41, 43, 44, 45, 51, 53, 55, 63, 71, 79, 86,
94, 95, 97, 103, 110.
Id. at~ 18.
Brown Univ., 166 F.Supp.3d at 191.
ECF Doc. No. 14 at~ 33.
Id. at~ 23.
42 U.S.C. § 2000d.
Blunt v. Lower Merion School Dist., 767 F.3d 247, 275 (3d Cir. 2014).
Blunt, 767 F.3d at 275 (citing Blunt v. Lower Merion School Dist., 826 F.Supp.2d 749, 758
(E.D.Pa. 201 l)(emphasis added).
Univ. of Penn., 2017 WL 4049033, at *21 (citing Davidv. Neumann Univ., 177 F. Supp. 3d
920, 927 (E.D. Pa. 2016)
Sarullo v. US. Postal Service, 352 F.3d 789, 798 (3d Cir. 2003)(quoting Pivirotto v.
Innocative Systems, Inc., 191F.3d344, 352 (3d Cir. 1999).
ECF Doc. No. 14 at~~ 2, 93.
Id. at il 2.
Id. at ilil 27-30, 41, 43, 45, 54, 83-90, 94.
Blunt, 767 F.3d at 275 (citing Lower Merion School Dist., 826 F.Supp.2d at 758)(emphasis
See e.g., ECF Doc. No. 14 at il 39 ("Drexel staff involved in the charge, investigation, and
punishment phases of this matter, all of them White or Latino, showed racist animosity against
Mr. Saravanan"), il 41 ("race-motivated antagonistic pattern of decision making [ ... ] Drexel
consistently treated him as a dangerous man of color"), il 43 ("Drexel acted with intent to
discriminate against him based on his race"), il 45 ("motivated by animosity to his race"),
("intentionally racist sanction"), il 83 ("Drexel has deprived Plaintiff on the basis of his race [ ... ]
and national origin[ ... ] of his rights to due process and to equal protection through the improper,
malicious, racist, or deliberately indifferent application of its policies"), il 84 ("Drexel has
discriminated against Plaintiff, on the basis of his race and national origin, through
discriminatory, race-based implementation of Drexel's policies and procedures"), il 85 ("Drexel
has violated Plaintiffs rights to be free from race based discrimination"), il 94 ("intentional
animosity towards his race"), il 95 ("Drexel [ ... ] treats non-Indian respondents to disciplinary
processes like this one better than it threated plaintiff'), il 96 ("Drexel treated Plaintiff in a
discriminatory manner [ ... ] under a racial motivation"), il 97 ("Plaintiffs race and national origin
were motivating factors").
ECF Doc. No. 14 at il 39.
Id. at il 95.
Id. at il 45 ("Drexel's better treatment is believed to involve Drexel's practice of offering the
responding student the opportunity to withdraw and keep a clean academic record rather than go
through the disciplinary process. Drexel did not make that offer to Mr. Saravanan at least in part
motivated by animosity to his race and that constitutes the origin of the more severe,
intentionally racist sanction he experienced.").
Blunt, 767 F.3d at 275 (citing Lower Merion School Dist., 826 F.Supp.2d at 758)(emphasis
ECF Doc. No. 14 at il 42.
Id. at il 94.
42 U.S.C.A. § 1981.
Pryor v. National Collegiate Athletic Ass 'n, 288 F .3d 548, 569 (3d Cir. 2002)(citing Brown v.
Philip Morris, Inc., 250 F.3d 789, 797 (3d Cir. 2001).
Albert v. Carovano, 851F.2d561, 571 (2d Cir. 1988).
Yusuf, 35 F.3d at 714.
ECF Doc. No. 14 at~ 39.
Id. at~~ 40, 43, 94, 97.
Id. at~ 42.
Albert, 851 F.2d at 571.
28 U.S.C. § 1331.
28 U.S.C.A. § 1367.
Sarpolis v. Tereshko, 625 Fed.Appx. 594, 598 (3d Cir. 2016)(citing Sinclair v. Soniform,
Inc., 935 F.2d 599, 603 (3d Cir.1991)).
Young v. Pleasant Valley School Dist., No. 3:07cv854, 2008 WL 417739, *2 (M.D.Pa. Feb.
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