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Dibbern v. University of Michigan

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

April 22, 2015

Jennifer Dibbern, Plaintiff,
v.
University of Michigan, et. al., Defendants.

ORDER OVERRULING DEFENDANTS' OBJECTIONS TO MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL DISCOVERY

SEAN F. COX, District Judge.

This case is, at its core, a sexual harassment and sexual discrimination case. Plaintiff Jennifer Dibbern ("Plaintiff" or "Dibbern") alleges that, while she was a graduate student at the University of Michigan ("U-M") College of Engineering, she was subjected to severe and pervasive sexual harassment and discrimination by her male peers, as well as by university faculty and employees, that deprived her of the full benefit of the educational experience. Plaintiff also alleges that the University and its faculty retaliated against her in various ways, including by dismissing her from her graduate program, in response to her reports of sexual harassment and discrimination in the Engineering department.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Objections (Doc. #99) to Magistrate Judge Hluchaniuk's Order Granting in Part Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel Discovery (Doc. #97). The objections have been fully briefed by the parties. For the reasons set forth below, the Court shall OVERRULE Defendants' objections.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff joined the University of Michigan's Department of Material Science and Engineering in the fall of 2007. Plaintiff's entering Ph.D. class included five women out of a total of approximately 25 students. (Pl.'s Compl. at ¶ 34). Plaintiff alleges that she was subjected to sexual harassment and threats of sexual assault at the hands of her engineering PhD colleagues, who were mostly male.

In January 2009, Plaintiff made an anonymous phone call to the University of Institutional Equity concerning harassment, discrimination and stalking she was experiencing. During this phone call, she spoke with Associate Vice Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs Anthony Walesby, ("Walesby") who is an Associate Vice Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs and the university's Title IX coordinator. (Pl.'s Compl. at ¶ 60). Walesby allegedly responded that he needed "concrete proof" and commented that "people assume women false report this kind of stuff." (Pl.'s Compl. at ¶ 62). Walesby also allegedly told Plaintiff that "the truth is, there are some women who are overly sensitive... and who can't take a joke and feel offended." (Pl.'s Compl. at ¶ 66). Plaintiff felt that Walesby was ineffective and offered her no means of recourse. (Pl.'s Compl. at ¶ 67).

Plaintiff also received confidential support services from the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center ("SAPAC"), of which Holly Rider-Milkovich ("Milkovich") is the Director.

Plaintiff maintains that she was wrongfully dismissed from her PhD program after years of experiencing sexual and gender-based harassment, about which she complained to numerous University officials and faculty, and in response to which the University took absolutely no helpful action. (Pl.'s Compl. at ¶ 118-119).

Plaintiff filed her original Complaint on December 21, 2012. (Doc. #1). Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, filed on June 7, 2013, alleges the following counts:

• Count I: Title IX Sex Discrimination and Sexually Hostile Educational Environment, against U-M and U-M Board of Regents;

• Count II: Title IX Retaliation for Reporting, Opposing, and Attempting to Remedy a Sexually Hostile Environment in the College of Engineering, against U-M and U-M Board of Regents;

• Count III: Equal Protection - 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the Individual Defendants in their Individual and Official Capacities;

• Count IV: Due Process Violations - 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the Individual Defendants in their Individual and Official Capacities;

• Count V: First Amendment Freedom of Speech Retaliation - 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the Individual Defendants in their ...


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