A black student, who flunked out of American University's law school after two years on full scholarship, has charged the university with racial and religious discrimination in a lawsuit filed in D.C. Superior Court.
The suit comes in the wake of a controversial "reverse discrimination" case now before the Supreme Court involving Allan Bakke, a white denied admission to a California medical school.
"The issues are the ones that might come up in Act Two or Act Three of a Bakke play," said one law school official, who asked not to be identified.
The central issue the case raises is that once a university lowers its admissions criteria to take in minority students at what point should it be allowed to demand that the student meet normal university standards.
Karl Evanzz, who applied for law school under a special minority enrollment program, alleged in an interview yesterday that he was dismissed after three straight semesters on probation while other minority students have been allowed to continue in school until their fifth semester.
"I'm not asking for special treatment," he said. "But if they have a policy to allow students to continue in school up until their last semesters I don't see why I should not be afforded the same opportunity."
Evanzz, the son of a St. Louis unskilled laborer and a member of the Islamic faith, charges in his suit that he was denied due process of law and was discriminated against on the basis of his sex, race and religion.
The university maintains that it not only didn't discriminate against Evanzz, but in fact gave him special treatment. "I am not aware of any student, other than Mr. Evanzz, who has completed two years as a full-time student who has never attained a cumulative grade average above the minimum 2.0 required to be in good standing," assistant law dean Bert B. Lockwood Jr. said in one affidavit filed in the case.
Lockwood, in an interview, said the law school, unlike many other professional schools, does not have a special program to admit or offer scholarships to minority students. "There's no one treated differently than anyone else in the university," he said. "I feel a great deal of empathy for Evanzz. He's invested two years of his life here."
The law school bulletin distributed in 1975, the year Evanzz was admitted, however, states "the law school has established a special program with a limited number of scholarships for disadvantaged minority students." Evanzz said he applied to school under that program and received $5,700 in scholarships the next two years.
Evanzz was put on probation after he received a 1.3 grade-point average his first semester. The next semester he received an "F" and two "Ds", bringing his grade point average down to 1.41. He could have been dismissed at that time, but was allowed to stay with a full-tuition scholarship.