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Khan v. Midwestern University

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

December 12, 2016

AYESHA KHAN, Plaintiff,
MIDWESTERN UNIVERSITY, an Illinois corporation, Defendant.


          John Robert Blakey United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Ayesha Khan ("Plaintiff' or "Khan") is a former medical student at Defendant Midwestern University ("Defendant" or the "University"). Plaintiff alleges that during the 2012-13 school year, she became clinically depressed and developed a generalized anxiety disorder due to a pregnancy and other extenuating circumstances in her life. Plaintiff further alleges that she requested reasonable accommodations in light of these disabilities, but Defendant denied her requests. Plaintiffs sole remaining claim pursuant to these allegations arises under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. Defendant has moved for summary judgment, [58] at 1, and for the reasons explained below, Defendant's motion is granted.

         I. Background[1]

         A. University Policy

         When a student fads a course at the University, their academic progress is reviewed by the University's Preclinical Promotions Committee ("PCP"). [57] at 3. As a matter of University policy, each course failure results in an accumulation of "failure-equivalents." Id. If a student accumulates one failure-equivalent, the PCP requires the student to repeat that course before they can progress in their studies. Id. If a student accumulates three failure-equivalents in a single academic year or four failure-equivalents spanning more than one year, the PCP generally dismisses the student. Id. Plaintiff does not dispute this characterization of University policy and practice. [59-1] at 4.

         B. Plaintiffs Time At The University

         In the fall of 2010, Plaintiff matriculated into the University and enrolled in "Block I, " which contains sixteen courses. [57] at 4. Plaintiff failed three of her initial sixteen courses, giving her four failure-equivalents (due to the variable credit values of the courses). Id. Plaintiff additionally withdrew from five other courses, one of which she was faihng at the time of her withdrawal. Id. at 5.

         On March 11, 2011, Plaintiff explained to the University's review board that she believed her academic difficulties were caused by her husband's illness. Id. Though Plaintiff had already accrued more than enough failure-equivalents to justify her dismissal under University policy by this time, she was only suspended and placed on academic probation. Id.

         In the fall of 2011, Plaintiff repeated the Block I courses she either failed or did not complete. Id. The PCP reviewed her work and allowed her to progress to "Block II, " which contains twelve courses. Id. at 5-6.

         Plaintiff became pregnant in late January or early February of 2013, during the pendency of Block II. [59-1] at 30. Plaintiff alleges that her pregnancy, in conjunction with multiple other factors, caused her depression and anxiety "in late January/early February" of 2013. Id. Plaintiff asked for, and was granted, a two-week medical leave of absence from February 25, 2013 until March 11, 2013. [57] at 7. Plaintiffs leave request was supported by a note from Dr. Gerald Farby. Id.

         Plaintiff claims that when she returned to the University, she "asked for the following accommodations . . . rescheduling of exams in Pharmacology, Pathology, and Microbiology . . . [and assignment of a] Tutor for pharmacology [sic]." [59-2] at 2. Plaintiffs accommodation requests were supported by letters from Dr. Farby (dated March 20, 2013) and Plaintiffs "counselor, " Sufi Ifthekhar Ahmed (dated March 18, 2013). [57-1] at 61-62. Plaintiff claims that she hand-delivered these letters to unnamed "school administrators" on March 21, 2013. [59-1] at 17.

         The parties agree that Plaintiffs Pathology and Microbiology exams were rescheduled. [59-2] at 2. The parties further agree that Plaintiff was assigned a Pharmacology tutor, though Plaintiff claims the assigned tutor was unavailable to meet with her. Id.

         Plaintiff had particular issues in her Pharmacology course, taught by Dr. Walter Prozialeck. Pharmacology spanned all three quarters of Block II, and was worth ten credits. [57] at 7. On March 25, 2013, Dr. Prozialeck sent an email to Ms. Khan regarding her academic standing in the course. Id. Plaintiff acknowledges that by this time, she had failed seven out of nine exams and was failing the course. [59-1] at 17. Dr. Prozialeck requested that Ms. Khan speak to him about her academic performance. Id.

         On March 28, 2013, Ms. Khan came to Dr. Prozialeck's office. Id. The parties disagree regarding what was said during that meeting. Defendant suggests that Dr. Prozialeck spent time discussing Ms. Khan's overall course performance and calculated target grades that she would need to score on future exams in order to pass the course. [57] at 7. Defendant also claims that Dr. Prozialeck discussed general study strategies with her, and reviewed past exams. Id. Conversely, Plaintiff insists that the meeting largely consisted of her being "criticized for being pregnant. She was told ...

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