Hack, et al. v. The President and Fellows of Yale College, et al.
United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (1997)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
PLAINTIFFS' COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY, INJUNCTIVE, AND MONETARY RELIEF
Preliminary Statement of the Case
1. This is a civil action by four freshmen and sophomores at Yale College who have been discriminatorily denied permission granted to other freshmen and sophomores to live off-campus. The plaintiffs are being directed by the defendants to live in on-campus residential facilities under conditions that, to the defendants' knowledge, violate the students' religious convictions. The plaintiffs are Orthodox Jews whose religious beliefs and obligations forbid them to reside in the co-educational housing Yale provides. Rather than accommodate the plaintiffs' faith and appreciate their contribution to the richness of the Yale community, the defendants have persisted in hindering and penalizing the plaintiffs' religious practice and requiring them to compromise their religious obligations. The defendants' conduct in denying to these four students the free exercise of their religion is and has been committed under color of the laws of the State of Connecticut, in violation of the laws of the United States and of the statutory and common law of the State of Connecticut. This action seeks declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 3604, and 15 U.S.C. § 1, as well fundamental principles of contract, equity and fair dealing.
2. On the grounds alleged in paragraphs 18 - 67 of this Complaint, Yale University and its agents are agencies or instrumentalities of the State of Connecticut for the purpose of vindicating the individual rights guaranteed against the Government by the Constitution of the United States within the meaning of Lebron v. National Railroad Passenger Corp., 513 U.S. 374 (1995), and the judicial rulings that have followed the Lebron decision. Because of
(a) Yale's unique history of unification with the State of Connecticut by the Act of Union of 1792;
(b) Yale's singular position as chartered by the Constitution of the State of Connecticut;
(c) Yale's support by, and close ties with, the Legislature of the State of Connecticut;
(d) the requirement of Connecticut law that the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut be ex officio members of Yale's governing board;
and because of Yale's other involvement with, and control and support by, official agencies of the governments of the United States and the State of Connecticut, Yale's official acts and policies regarding its student body constitute governmental action for constitutional purposes.
3. In his official history of Yale, the former University Archivist of Yale stated:
It cannot be stressed too much that the college has never been wholly a private institution.
Kelley, Yale: A History (Yale University Press 1974), p. 11.
The same author said of the Connecticut Legislature's Act of Union of 1792:
The revision of the charter by the Act of Union of 1792 marked, as Stiles noted, the end of forty years of battling between the state and the college. It recognized the importance of the state to the college and of the college to the state. It confirmed what had long been true but not officially recognized: that the state was a partner in this great enterprise. It was certainly the most important single event in Stiles's presidency and one of the most important events in the entire history of Yale.
Id., p. 103 (emphasis added).
4. Yale's implementation of its rules regarding the residence of college freshmen and sophomores violates the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution because Yale and its officials, including the named individual defendants, permit freshmen and sophomores to reside off-campus for reasons other than religious convictions and belief but discriminate, in granting exemptions, against religious belief. Notwithstanding the legal obligations Yale has to avoid interference with the free exercise of religion, to avoid arbitrary unequal treatment that burdens fundamental constitutional rights, and to avoid invasions of constitutionally protected privacy rights, Yale refuses to grant to students who cannot, for religious reasons, reside in the Yale dormitories the same permission to reside off-campus that it grants to students who have non-religious reasons, such as age or marital status, for residing off-campus. Nor has Yale made adequate accommodations in its dormitories to enable the plaintiffs to reside there without violating their religious beliefs or enduring violations of their constitutionally protected right of privacy.
5. Yale's insistence that the plaintiffs compromise their religious obligations by living in co-educational residence halls and its refusal to make reasonable accommodation to the plaintiffs' religious beliefs constitutes discrimination in the provision of housing, thereby violating the Federal Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604.
6. Yale has been unjustly enriched by demanding, under the threat of forced withdrawal from the College, that the plaintiffs pay for dormitory rooms that the defendants knew were worthless to the plaintiffs and could not possibly be inhabited by them. Yale is required by fundamental principles of equity and fair dealing to return to the plaintiffs the payments made under duress for wholly useless dormitory rooms.
7. Yale's housing regulations requiring freshmen and sophomores to lease dormitory rooms as a condition of participating in Yale's undergraduate degree programs constitutes an anticompetitive and illegal "tying" arrangement under the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1.
8. By its policies vis-a-vis the plaintiffs, Yale has breached the promises and assurances that it provides to all individuals who apply for admission to Yale College, are accepted for admission, and enroll in the school that it will provide its services to all persons regardless of race or religion. Yale promises its applicants that it encourages and promotes diversity, that it does not discriminate on the basis of race or religion, and that it supports the different needs of its diverse student body. Yale's refusal to accommodate students' bona fide religious convictions by granting to them the same privilege to live off-campus that it grants to students who have nonreligious reasons for living off-campus and Yale's failure to provide a residence within the Yale dormitories that would meet the students' religious convictions breaches the contractual obligation the defendants have undertaken towards applicants and registered students.
Jurisdiction and Venue
9. This Court has both federal-question and supplemental jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1367.
10. Venue is proper in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut because a substantial part of the illegal acts, events, and omissions giving rise to the plaintiffs' claims occurred in this District. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2).
11. Plaintiff Elisha D. Hack is a citizen of Connecticut. He is a freshman at Yale College, Class of 2001. He resides at 42 Hobart Street, New Haven, Connecticut 06511.
12. Plaintiff Jeremy A. Hershman is a citizen of New York. He is a sophomore at Yale College, Class of 2000. He resides at 655 Branch Avenue, Cedarhurst, New York 11516.
13. Plaintiff Batsheva Greer is a citizen of Connecticut. She is a freshman at Yale College, Class of 2001. She resides at 133 West Park Avenue, New Haven, Connecticut 06511.
14. Plaintiff Lisa B. Friedman is a citizen of New York. She is a sophomore at Yale College, class of 2000. She resides at 82 Park Row, Lawrence, New York 11559.
15. Defendant Yale Corporation is a non-profit university chartered by the Constitution of Connecticut, with its principal place of business at Grove & Prospect Streets, New Haven, Connecticut, 06520.
16. Defendant Richard H. Brodhead is Dean of Yale College. At all times relevant to plaintiffs' complaint, he was aware of Yale's housing regulations and was in a position to grant individual exemptions from those regulations.
17. Defendant Betty Trachtenberg is Dean of Student Affairs at Yale College. At all times relevant to plaintiffs' complaint, she was aware of Yale's housing regulations and was in a position to grant individual exemptions from those regulations.
History of Yale
18. For almost 300 years, since October 1701, when the Governor and the General Assembly of Connecticut met in New Haven and adopted "An Act for Liberty to Erect a Collegiate School," the government of the Colony and, thereafter, of the State of Connecticut has been intimately involved in the management, financing, and administration of Yale.
19. The 1701 enactment named the new college's initial trustees, prescribed their number, defined their duties, and directed that governmental funds be expended initially and on an annual basis to the newly created college.
20. In 1703, the General Assembly of Connecticut exempted students at the newly created Collegiate School (not yet named Yale) from "watching and warding and all other such publick service" and from taxation.
21. In 1719, the General Assembly of Connecticut exempted the Rector of the new college, by reason of his office, from payment of all taxes.
22. The General Assembly of Connecticut supported the new college financially by directing in 1715 that public funds obtained from the sale of certain public lands be provided to Yale "for the building [of] a College house."
23. In October 1718, the General Assembly of Connecticut appropriated funds from the public treasury to pay all the college's tutors. The same legislation, titled "An Act for the Encouragement of Yale College," provided for the admission and graduation of certain scholars and for the transfer of books from the College's earlier home in Saybrook to New Haven.
24. In October 1721, the General Assembly of Connecticut enacted a law directing that all proceeds of "the impost on rum for two years next" were to be applied to building the rector's house at Yale College.
25. In October 1723, the General Assembly of Connecticut passed "An Act in Explanation of and Addition to the Act for Erecting a Collegiate School in this Colony." This enactment prescribed the powers and qualifications of the College's trustees and procedures for their meetings.
26. On May 9, 1745, the General Assembly passed "An Act for the more full and compleat Establishment of Yale College in New-Haven and for enlarging the Powers and Priveliges [sic] thereof." Besides describing the rights and duties of Yale College officials, this Act exempted the College's property from taxes. Yale College professors, tutors, students and their servants were also "freed and exempted" from taxes, military service and other public services such as "working at highways."
27. In May 1747, the General Assembly granted Yale College the right to hold a lottery to raise money for a new residence hall.
28. In October 1749, the General Assembly voted to grant to Yale the proceeds of the sale of a French boat captured by the Colony's frigate. These public funds, which were later supplemented with other public funds -- a total of 1660 pounds sterling -- were used to construct Connecticut Hall, which contained "sleeping chambers" for students at the College.
29. On October 16, 1770, the General Assembly paid the outstanding debt of Yale College.
30. After the Revolution and the establishment of the State of Connecticut, the Connecticut Legislature enacted the Act of Union in 1792, which revised Yale's charter.
31. The 1792 Act of Union provided that the State of Connecticut would give substantial financial assistance to Yale College.
32. The 1792 Act of Union prescribed that the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, and six senior assistants in the Connecticut Council were to serve as ex officio members of the Yale Corporation.
33. With the government funds provided under the 1792 Act of Union, a new dormitory building named Union Hall was constructed beginning with April 1793. The building was named Union Hall because of the "amicable union" between the government of the State of Connecticut and the private officials of Yale College.
34. In May 1796, the Connecticut General Assembly voted additional financial support to Yale College and required the president and fellows of Yale College to make an annual account of receipts and expenditures to the General Assembly.
35. The legal requirement of an annual report of Yale's receipts and expenditures to the Connecticut General Assembly continues to this day.
36. The Constitution of the State of Connecticut, which became effective on October 12, 1818, confirms in Article 8, § 3 the charter of Yale College. Article 8 pertains in its entirety to the public educational institutions of Connecticut. Yale is the only school specified in the Connecticut Constitution of 1818, and its inclusion in this form bars any legislative modification or change in Yale's charter.
37. By confirming the charter of Yale College in its Constitution, the State of Connecticut has established Yale as an official state institution subject to the obligations imposed by the Constitution of the United States and by the Constitution of the State of Connecticut on all agencies of government.
38. On May 12, 1819, the Connecticut Legislature amended the 1792 Act of Union by providing that six senior senators of the Connecticut Legislature, sit, ex officio, as members of the Yale Corporation in addition to the Governor and Lieutenant Governor of the State of Connecticut.
39. The Connecticut Legislature continued to provide special financial benefits to Yale. In August 1834, in legislation specifically pinpointing Yale, it exempted all Yale property, including its invested funds, from taxation except for real estate having an annual income exceeding $6000. As a consequence of this special legislation several new buildings were constructed on the Yale campus.
40. In 1863, the Connecticut General Assembly assigned to the Sheffield Scientific School, which was then the most important school at Yale after the College, all the income from the Connecticut Land Grant Fund.
41. In 1871, the Connecticut General Assembly substituted six elected alumni for the six Connecticut senators who are to sit on Yale's board.
42. In 1882, the tax exemption that had earlier been granted to Yale was reconfirmed, and it was extended to Trinity College and Wesleyan University.
43. In 1887, the Connecticut General Assembly, by special legislation, authorized the President and Fellows of Yale College in New Haven to use the title "Yale University."
44. Yale has continued to benefit from acts of the Connecticut General assembly until today. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor continue to sit as ex officio "Fellows of Yale College" to this day.
45. The State of Connecticut reimburses the City of New Haven for a substantial portion of the City's lost revenues from Yale's tax-exempt property. For this past year, the amount of this reimbursement was $13.6 million, which was approximately 60 percent of the City's lost revenues.
Facts Giving Rise to This Action
46. Yale College has twelve "Residential Colleges." All of Yale's residence halls are co-educational, and all common areas, including bathrooms, are easily accessible to members of the opposite sex. Yale has no parietal rules (a) regarding visits at any time of the day or night by members of the opposite sex and (b) regarding sexual activity in its dormitories.
47. Yale's "Dormitory Regulations" state, in part: "All Freshmen and Sophomores are required to live on campus, except Freshmen who are married or who are over 21 years of age." Before the 1995-1996 academic year, this rule applied only to Freshmen. Before 1995-1996 it did not apply to students whose families lived in New Haven.
48. Orthodox Judaism regulates the details of daily life according to religious law and tradition. Among other things, Orthodox Judaism requires strict adherence to a code of sexual modesty which forbids, for example, touching members of the opposite sex other than one's immediate relatives or spouse. It also forbids living in a situation in which a person would have regular or repeated exposure to members of the opposite sex undressed or dressed immodestly.
49. Plaintiff Lisa B. Friedman is an Orthodox Jew who was admitted as an undergraduate to Yale College in April 1995. She deferred her enrollment for one year in order to study Jewish religious subjects at Michlala, an all-women's college in Jerusalem. Her intention in such study was to strengthen her commitment to her faith and to gain a deeper understanding of her religious obligations.
50. In April 1996, before her freshman year began, Ms. Friedman wrote to defendant Trachtenberg to request a waiver from Yale's housing regulation requiring freshmen to live in on-campus dormitories. In her letter, Ms. Friedman pointed out to Dean Trachtenberg that Yale's co-educational dormitories were unacceptable under the laws of Orthodox Judaism.
51. Ms. Friedman summarized in her letter her religion-based concerns about on-campus housing, emphasizing the accessibility of dormitory halls and bathrooms to members of the opposite sex. Such an environment, she explained, was in direct conflict with the tenets of Orthodox Judaism, which forbids unnecessary interaction between unmarried men and women. Ms. Friedman stated that she "fully appreciate[d] the college's standpoint in promoting a diverse atmosphere on campus and advancing interaction between all classmates" and "hope[d] to partake in [Yale's] friendly and multi-cultural environment in various other forums" but insisted that she "[would] not compromise [her] religious standards."
52. On May 13, 1996, Dean Trachtenberg denied Ms. Friedman's request for a waiver, citing Yale's policy requiring incoming freshmen to purchase housing in on-campus residential colleges. Although Dean Trachtenberg noted that Yale will "continue [the] practice" of working with students "to accommodate their religious practices," she did not deem Ms. Friedman's own sincere religious practices to be a sufficient reason to depart from Yale's housing regulations. On information and belief, this decision was approved by defendant Brodhead.
53. Under threat of being excluded from Yale, Ms. Friedman paid the separate charge for on-campus housing when she paid her tuition bill. Nonetheless, in keeping with her own religious obligations, Ms. Friedman rented housing off-campus, which was readily available in the New Haven housing market, where she lived during the academic year.
54. Plaintiff Elisha D. Hack is an Orthodox Jew who was admitted as an undergraduate at Yale College in April 1995. He deferred enrollment for two years to engage in religious studies. On May 9, 1997, Mr. Hack requested a waiver from Yale's on-campus housing requirement, citing religious concerns similar to those expressed by the other plaintiffs. His request was denied, and he was required to pay the separate charge for university housing. He paid under duress and with a written protest. Mr. Hack is renting off-campus housing that provides an environment suited to his religious life.
55. Plaintiff Batsheva Greer is an Orthodox Jew who was admitted as an undergraduate at Yale College in April 1996. She deferred enrollment for one year in order to study Orthodox Jewish religious subjects in Israel, entering Yale in September 1997. She has also requested a waiver from Yale's housing regulations for religious reasons, and the request has been denied. She has paid for on-campus housing under duress and with a written protest, and she currently resides in off-campus housing that provides her with an appropriate environment in which to practice her faith.
56. Plaintiff Jeremy Hershman is an Orthodox Jew who was admitted to Yale in April 1995. He deferred entrance for one year, during which time he pursued Talmudic studies in Israel. On March 18, 1996, Mr. Hershman requested, on religious grounds, that Dean Trachtenberg waive Yale's housing requirement in his case. Dean Trachtenberg denied Mr. Hershman's request. Mr. Hershman paid the separate charge for on-campus housing when he paid his tuition bill, and has paid again, under duress and with a written protest, for the current academic year. Mr. Hershman secured off-campus housing, which was readily available in the New Haven market. Mr. Hershman currently resides in this off-campus housing in an environment suited to his religious life.
57. Rachel Wohlgelerenter, a citizen of California, is also a freshman at Yale College, Class of 2001. She is an Orthodox Jew who was admitted as an undergraduate to Yale College. In a letter sent in August 1997, Ms. Wohlgelerenter requested a waiver from Yale's housing regulations for religious reasons. The request was denied. Ms. Wohlgelerenter advised Yale that she was planning to be married on December 28, 1997, and requested that she be permitted to reside off-campus for the Fall Semester. The defendants responded that she would not be exempted from the residence requirement before her marriage. Accordingly, in order to avoid being required to reside in the Yale dormitories, Ms. Wohlgelerenter engaged in a civil ceremony on September 13, 1997, with her fiance in New York City before a city clerk in the Municipal Building -- an action she would not have taken if not for the refusal by the defendants to accommodate her religious beliefs. Although she does not currently live in a true marriage relationship with her fiance and has no intention of doing so until after her religious marriage in December 1997, the defendants exempted her because of the civil ceremony from the on-campus dormitory residence requirement. Since Ms. Wohlgelerenter has suffered no financial harm by reason of Yale's demand and is not being directed to live in the Yale dormitories, she is not a plaintiff in this lawsuit.
58. Various third parties have repeatedly approached Dean Brodhead, Dean Trachtenberg, and other Yale officials about securing waivers for the plaintiffs, but these attempts have been unsuccessful. The defendants have insisted that living in a Residential College is "integral" to a Yale education, notwithstanding the exemptions Yale grants to married students and students over the age of 21, and that its on-campus housing requirement will not be waived even if the requirement conflicts with religious convictions.
59. Plaintiffs' counsel has negotiated in good faith with Yale's counsel in writing and in telephone conversations to determine whether Yale will make a reasonable accommodation to meet with religious convictions of the plaintiffs. The defendants have refused to make such an accommodation, and this action is being initiated to challenge Yale's right under the law and the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Connecticut to refuse to make the necessary accommodations.
MILLER, CASSIDY, LARROCA & LEWIN
2555 M Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037
WILLIAM F. GALLAGHER
Bar No. Ct 04147
BARBARA L. COX
GALLAGHER, GALLAGHER & CALISTRO
1377 Ella Grasso Boulevard
New Haven, CT 06511
Attorneys for Plaintiffs
DATED: October 15, 1997
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