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Former Grad Student Sues Penn State For Alleged Americans With Disabilities Act Noncompliance

A former Penn State graduate student is suing the university after it allegedly failed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, breached a contract, and violated student handbook rules.

That student, Duncan Morgen-Westrick, seeks up to $150,000, compensation for legal fees, and reinstatement in Penn State’s software engineering master’s program.

The lawsuit, filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleges Penn State removed Morgen-Westrick from the program after not providing him time to remediate a course. The university had allegedly promised he’d have extra time to complete the course due to his learning disability, which requires him to need additional time to take exams.

Morgen-Westrick said he allegedly couldn’t complete the course on time after receiving a heavy workload from a different professor. Sally Richmond, the professor teaching the course in question, gave him an additional week to remediate his grade by making up assignments, which, according to court documents, allegedly violated Penn State’s agreement to give him extra time due to his learning disability.

Richmond’s alleged actions violated a Penn State policy that requires instructors to provide “written notification of the basis for grades to students on or before the first class meeting.”

“As a result of Professor Richmond’s illegal actions, [Morgen-Westrick] was unable to complete his Masters degree even though he was approximately 2/3 of the way toward graduation,” attorney William C. Reil wrote.

Additionally, Morgen-Westrick allegedly wasn’t provided a hearing or opportunity to challenge or question Richmond ahead of his dismissal from the university.

“Instead of getting extra time due to his learning disability as he was promised, [Morgen-Westrick] was thrust into an overload situation, in violation of the representations made to him and the requirements of his learning disability,” Reil wrote.

In the suit, Reil argues Morgen-Westrick suffered a slew of damages, including failing to receive his master’s degree, missing out on employment opportunities, and spending more than $35,000 in tuition and school-related expenses such as textbooks and school supplies.

Although the suit lists Penn State Abington’s address alongside the defendant, it’s probable Morgen-Westrick actually attended Penn State Great Valley. Currently, Richmond is listed in Penn State’s directory as an assistant teaching professor at Great Valley, while Morgen-Westrick’s former software engineering graduate program doesn’t appear to be offered at Abington. Reil’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment on the potential mix-up.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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