A former University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff nursing student recently filed suit against UAPB Chancellor Lawrence A. Davis Jr. and University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt in U. S. District Court.

A former University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff nursing student recently filed suit against UAPB Chancellor Lawrence A. Davis Jr. and University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt in U. S. District Court.

In the two-count lawsuit, filed Jan. 13 in the Eastern District of Arkansas’ Pine Bluff Division, Courtney Sanders sued Davis both individually and in his official capacity and Bobbitt in his official capacity.

Sanders alleges that UAPB refused to grant her a nursing degree because she “complained of public corruption, including grade falsification and disparate treatment” and that she “as well as other black students, have been deprived of their right to educational opportunity equal to that afforded to whites.”

Davis said that he could not comment because he has not been legally served as a party to the case.

“Our longstanding policy is not to speak on pending litigation”, said Ben Beaumont, spokesman for the University of Arkansas System.

A message left with the office of Luther Sutter, the Benton attorney representing Sanders, was not returned before press time.

Allegation of facts

“Plaintiff [Sanders] is a black female who was a nursing student at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff ,” the lawsuit says. “Plaintiff [Sanders] complained of public corruption, including grade falsification and disparate treatment. As a result of her complaints, UAPB refused to grant her, her nursing degree. Other individuals who have scored less than 900 on nursing exams were granted a degree, but Plaintiff [Sanders] was not because she exercised her rights under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

“Further, it is widely known that UAPB is a predominantly black university,” the lawsuit reads. “When one compares the funding granted to UAPB, as well as other predominantly black universities funded and operated by the University of Arkansas System, to those predominantly white, there is disparate funding.

“All students within the State of Arkansas have a fundamental right to an equal opportunity to an appropriate public education,” the lawsuit reads. “However, the University of Arkansas System funds predominantly white universities better than predominantly black universities. This deprives black students of the equal protection afforded by the United States Constitution.”

Count One

Sanders alleges in count one of the lawsuit that she “complained of grade falsification and other matters of public corruption, which is a matter of public concern,” and was denied her degree as a result.

“Because she complained on matters of public concern, Plaintiff [Sanders] was not allowed her degree, but wishes to return to UAPB to obtain her degree,” the lawsuit reads. “Accordingly, Defendants [Davis and Bobbitt] have deprived Plaintiff of the rights granted to her under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

Sanders alleges that she was denied her degree because of the actions of Davis in an individual and official capacity and Bobbitt in an official capacity, and that as a result she has lost wages as well as business opportunity.

Count Two

In the second count of the lawsuit, Sanders claims class action status, arguing that she is one of a class of individuals comprised of black students who attend predominantly black universities within the University of Arkansas System who have been denied the equal opportunity to a public education that is afforded to white students at universities that are predominantly white.

“The University of Arkansas System has a policy, custom, or practice of giving predominantly white universities more funding than black universities,” the lawsuit reads. “Plaintiff [Sanders] as well as other black students have been deprived of their right to educational opportunity equal to that afforded to whites.”

“Public education is a fundamental right,” the lawsuit reads. “The State of Arkansas funds and subsidizes the University of Arkansas System. Accordingly, every student in the State of Arkansas, regardless of race, has a fundamental right to an equal opportunity to a public education. However, the University of Arkansas System underfunds those universities that are predominantly black of the resources needed to provide black students with equal education opportunity afforded to white students.”

“The common question of fact is whether the University of Arkansas System has underfunded predominantly black universities when compared to predominantly white universities,” the lawsuit reads. “Accordingly, Plaintiff [Sanders] seeks class certification … seeking injunctive relief requiring the University of Arkansas System to fund black universities in a manner equal to that of predominantly white universities.”

Desired outcome

Sanders asks the court to come to a decision that requires the University of Arkansas System to grant her a nursing degree in order to redress the deprivation of rights she allegedly suffered and that requires the University of Arkansas System to fund predominantly black universities in a manner equal to that of predominantly white universities, as well as appropriate compensatory damages for deprivation of her rights.

Sanders asks that her case by heard by a jury.