Discrimination remains on UW-Milwaukee campus

Joseph Schulz, Managing Editor

A former UW-Milwaukee student’s discrimination lawsuit against the UW System Board of Regents was recently dismissed by the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Cherakei Griffin, a female African-American student, initially sued the Board of Regents and UWM in April 2019 for allegedly charging her out-of-state tuition despite her being a Wisconsin resident.

The initial lawsuit, filed in the Western District Court of Wisconsin, alleges that when Griffin applied to the university she was subjected to “strange, bizarre and harassing behavior,” and was required to complete unnecessary “to do tasks” that were not required of other applicants.

Griffin argues that UWM created rules that only apply to her in order to bill her at higher rates than students not of her race or gender.

Court documents said instances of discrimination within the UW System have increased in recent years, and that the “culture of racial discrimination is alive and well within its facilities.”

At UWM specifically, court papers say discriminatory barriers cause only one in five black students to graduate within six years.

In Griffin’s case, the lawsuit alleges that administrators refused to correct their billing error and created a “flagging system” that “purposely mislabels African-American applicants as ‘non residents.’”

In addition, she claims UWM denied her financial aid, waivers and other opportunities provided to students not of her race or gender.

As a result of the “false and outrageous” billing, Griffin has been forced to discontinue her education, as the university has placed holds on her academic record for unpaid fees, court papers noted.

The lawsuit argues that UWM violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states that no one in the U.S. shall be excluded from participation or subjected to discrimination from any program that receives federal assistance.

In a May 2019 court filing, the Board of Regents denied all of the allegations in Griffin’s complaint.

In October, District Judge Barbara Crabb ordered that UWM and specific faculty members be dismissed as defendants in the case.

In January 2020, Crabb also denied Griffin’s motion for reconsideration, which asked that the specific faculty remain defendants.

Later that month, Magistrate Judge Stephen Crocker ordered that Griffin travel to Madison for a deposition.

On Feb. 10, Griffin appealed to the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, arguing that the previous orders were inconsistent with the U.S. law.

The next day, the court replied that an appeal cannot be taken in a civil case until a final judgment has been made. A motion for a voluntary dismissal was filed Feb. 26, and the appeals court dismissed the case on Feb. 27.

In a Feb. 27 court filing, Griffin wrote that the Western District Court will cause a “miscarriage of justice.”

“I am stating, under oath, that I believe that a fair and impartial trial cannot be obtained,” she wrote.

Griffin isn’t the only student who’s allegedly been wrongly charged out-of-state tuition at UWM. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Almond Moone, 20, of Janesville, was also wrongly charged out-of-state tuition.

According to the Journal Sentinel, Moone received in-state tuition when she attended UW-Rock County, but when she transferred to UWM she was charged out-of-state tuition.

By February 2019, Moone owed UWM $12,989.61, the Journal Sentinel reports. UWM only waived Moone’s debt after the Journal Sentinel reported that she was wrongly charged.

In her Feb. 27 filing, Griffin wrote that Moone recieved “over 90% of the same discriminatory profiling” as she did, which is “indicative of a serious pattern and practice of racist and sexist discrimination against minority female students.”