Geoff Mulvihill, AP, May 11, 2009
A former student claims in a lawsuit that the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey discriminated against him for the way he described his background in classroom discussions on cultural diversity.
Paulo Serodio said that in 2006, he told a professor and classmates that he was “white, African, American,” which he says accurately reflects the fact that he was born in Mozambique but later became a U.S. citizen.
He said some classmates and staff members at New Jersey Medical School found it offensive that a Caucasian man would call himself “African-American” and that the fallout led to harassment and eventually his suspension from the school.
Serodio, who lives in Newark, said some school employees and students told him not to describe himself as “African-American.” In the aftermath of his comments, Serodio said, flyers were hung around the school mocking him, he was assaulted and his car was vandalized.
His lawyer, Gregg Zeff, said Serodio eventually was suspended for “conduct unbecoming” a student.
Serodio filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Newark on Monday. He is seeking damages from the university and several faculty members and administrators.