A Seton Hall student is suing the University because he claims they removed him from his dorm room because he is gay.
Junior Jesse Cruz, who is studying public relations at Seton Hall, filed a complaint against the University on March 14 in the U.S District Court of New Jersey in Newark.
Cruz said he decided to sue the University to defend his rights as well as others’.
“I knew I had to stand up for the LGBT community and LGBT youth,” Cruz said.
Cruz said in an interview that he moved into his assigned dorm room in Xavier Hall at the start of the school year with one roommate. According to the complaint filed with the court, the roommate complained to members of the Seton Hall administration that he did not want to live with Cruz because Cruz is gay.
According to the complaint, Cruz was told he had to leave his residence by Sept. 15, 2010, despite Cruz saying he was happy with his room.
According to an email sent to Cruz from Yosayra Eusebio, the residence hall director of Xavier Hall at the time of the incident, Cruz had two options: a triple room in one of the complex dormitories or the double in Xaiver.
The email said the room in Xavier would be “with a Chinese roommate.”
Cruz said he refused to choose a room and was, instead, assigned one and told he had to vacate his room. However, Cruz chose to live on the floor of his friend’s room for two weeks until his attorney, Rosemarie Arnold, sent a letter to Seton Hall.
Cruz said after the University received the letter, they moved him back into his original room and moved his roommate out.
“The University abides by all state and federal laws related to its students and treats all members of its student body with respect and dignity. In this matter, the University acted in accordance with its policies and procedures and those laws,” University spokesman Greg Tobin said.
According to the complaint, Seton Hall’s roommate policy allows students who are unhappy with their room assignments or roommate(s) to leave their original room and choose another room, as long as that room had an open spot.
On the Seton Hall Housing and Residence Life calendar, this is referred to as “Room-Change Day,” which took place on Sept. 15, 2010.
However, according to the Housing Terms and Conditions of License agreement, “The University…reserves the right to move a resident from one room to another when the University determines, in its sole and absolute discretion, that the move is in the resident’s best interest or those of his/her fellow students and/or the University’s.”
Additionally, the agreement states the University has the right to reassign residents during the semester in order to consolidate vacant spaces and to increase room occupancy.
“Seton Hall University provides a rich and diversified educational experience for its students, both in and out of the classroom,” Tobin added. Eusebio, who has since left the University, and Tara Hart, the director of Housing and Residence Life, both declined to comment and referred any questions to Tobin.
Cruz said he decided to move forward with the lawsuit even after getting his old room back because he “didn’t want this to happen to anyone else, ever.”
“There’s not a day in my life I don’t think about it,” Cruz said, adding, “I walked around feeling worthless.”
Cruz added he had never had a problem with discrimination from the Seton Hall community before and had never had any problems with previous roommates.
Cruz is suing for violation of the New Jersey law against discrimination, discrimination due to sexual orientation, violation of the New Jersey Fair Housing Act, breach of housing contract, negligent hiring, training, supervision and retention of employees and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, according to the complaint.
According to the complaint, Cruz is asking for compensatory damages and punitive damages as well as attorney fees and the cost of the suit.
“This is not a lawsuit for two weeks worth of lost rent, this is a suit for the discrimination against a person based on a sexual orientation,” Arnold said. “It’s a violation of his rights as a human being.”
“We as parents send our children to college and usually that’s the first time they’re out on their own,” Arnold added. “They shouldn’t have to cope with despicable acts of irresponsibility thrust upon them by the…college nor should they have to waste money to hire a lawyer to protect them from irresponsible members of staff.”
Cruz is asking for a trial by jury, according to the court document.
Caitlin Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.