CAMDEN, N.J. (CN) – A white man who was born in Mozambique claims he was harassed, threatened, and suspended from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey because he described himself truthfully, in a course on “Cultural Diversity,” as “White, African, American.”
Paulo Serodio, 42, says he moved to the United in the 1980s, became a U.S. citizen in the 1990s, and raised his family here. Serodio claims that students and staff members harassed and threatened him after he responded truthfully to a class assignment in which “the students were asked to define themselves and their culture.” After defining himself as “White, African, American,” Serodio says, he “was harassed by faculty and students who argued that he could not be an African-American because his skin was white in color. The harassment included threats, vandalism to his automobile, disciplinary procedures and suspension from medical school.”
The complaint continues: “As a result of the harassment he endured, Mr. Serodio attempted to explain his feelings regarding his self-identification as an African-American by writing an essay calling for tolerance and acceptance of all people by their peers. He sent the essay to the student newspaper for publication. Before it was published, course director Linda Boyd, DO [Dean’s Office] unsuccessfully attempted to have the student newspaper editors reject the article. Also before publication, Dean of Student Affairs Thomas Cohen, MD warned Mr. Serodio not to publish the essay or ‘his life and career would suffer irreparably’. The essay was published despite the administration’s warning. As a result of his essay and comments about his own ethnicity, Mr. Serodio was suspended from the medical school in May 15, 2007, for one year. Re-instatement as a medical student was delayed until June 2008, making it impossible to graduate with less than a two-year loss in Mr. Serodio’s schooling and career.
“This lawsuit seeks to recover damages for the humiliation, embarrassment, pain, suffering, academic and economic losses sustained as a result of the wrongful conduct of UMDNJ and its administration.”
He demands punitive damages for discrimination, harassment, negligence, hostile environment, and federal and state civil rights violations. He is represented by Gregg Zeff.