Foundation Revokes Scholarship for Muslim
CHICAGO (CN) - The CEO of the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus Foundation refused to give a Hispanic student her scholarship unless she met him for drinks, the student claims in court - a scholarship which was revoked when the organization discovered she is Muslim.
Moriah Elusta sued the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus Foundation (ILLCF), and the University of Illinois, Chicago, in Cook County Court.
Elusta says she attended college at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) from 2011 to 2014, and was scheduled to graduate in three years with a 3.32 grade point average.
In late 2013, she won a $2,000 scholarship from ILLCF, and "received a phone call from Michael Gonzalez, the chief executive officer of ILLCF, who stated that the scholarship money came from his 'pocket'; and that she needed to meet with him and get drinks in order to receive her award," according to the complaint.
"Mr. Gonzalez added that if plaintiff did not meet with him, he would cause problems for her at UIC."
Elusta claims she informed her father of Gonzalez's request, and he discovered that the scholarship money came from business donations, not out of Gonzalez's pocket. Her father contacted Commonwealth Edison, one of the donors, who informed Mr. Elusta that it would discontinue funding to ILLCF, Elusta says.
"In December 2013, Mr. Gonzalez contacted plaintiff and stated that he would notify UIC and have her kicked out because he 'had connections with UIC,'" the complaint states.
It continues: "In December 2013, plaintiff complaint to Mr. Jesse Ruiz, the ILLCF attorney, regarding Mr. Gonzalez's conduct. She stated that she is a Muslim and cannot go out drinking and have sexual relations with men. Mr. Ruiz then told her that Muslims are not allowed to apply for his scholarship because it is only for Hispanics; then plaintiff informed him that her mother is Hispanic; plaintiff did not receive the scholarship."
"Several months later, Elusta allegedly received an email accusing her of falsifying a letter of recommendation sent to the School of Nursing at UIC, which Elusta hoped to attend after earning her undergraduate degree.
"Plaintiff never wrote this letter of recommendation; and she does know the alleged author, Linda Hull, who allegedly had plaintiff as a student in a microbiology class. Plaintiff had obtained the required letter of recommendation from one of her professors," Elusta says.
Elusta was subsequently dismissed from the university less than one month ahead of graduation, after a hearing conducted without her presence, and without giving her time to retain counsel, she says.
"ILLCF breached its contract with plaintiff based on the following facts: its offer of a scholarship, her acceptance of the offer by applying for the scholarship and being offered the scholarship, and then being denied the scholarship.
"Instead of graduating as scheduled on May 11, 2013, she was dismissed from UIC.
"Plaintiff had planned to attend graduate school immediately after graduation; and then work as a teacher.
"ILLCF's breach of contract has caused severe pain and suffering, including constant anxiety, inability to sleep or eat, constant crying, and a lack of desire to socialize," according to the complaint.
Elusta seeks punitive damages for breach of contract and violation of due process.
She is represented by Mitchell Kline.