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Soueidan v. Saint Louis University

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

April 27, 2018

AHMED SOUEIDAN, Plaintiff,
v.
SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RONNIE L. WHITE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on Saint Louis University's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint (ECF No. 14). This matter is fully briefed and ready for disposition.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff Ahmed Soueidan ("Soueidan") was enrolled as a doctoral student at Saint Louis University ("SLU") in the Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology in 2012. (Complaint ("CompL"), ECF No. 1, ¶¶l, 7). SLU represented to Soueidan that he would earn his Ph.D. in mechanical aerospace engineering in four years. (CompL, ¶8). Soueidan met with the department chair in August 2012, and together they drafted a plan for Soueidan to graduate with his doctoral degree in four years. (CompL, ¶9). Soueidan, however, was unable to find a Ph.D advisor who had research or funding to supervise his graduate studies. (CompL, ¶IO). In December 2013, Professor Raymond Lebeau ("Lebeau") agreed to act as Soueidan's Ph.D. advisor. (Compl., ¶12). Lebeau indicated that he could get Soueidan through the program in two more years, even though he had no research or funding for him. (Compl., ¶12). Due to Lebeau's uncertainty regarding the requisite qualifying examination for Soueidan, Lebeau referred Soueidan to the SLU Graduate Student Handbook ("the Handbook"). (Compl., ¶13). Professor Lebeau later told Soueidan to disregard the Handbook. (Id.).

         In August 2014, the graduate coordinator, graduate programs assistant, department chair (who drafted Soueidan's plan of study), and several professors within the department, left SLU simultaneously. (Compl., ¶14). By August 2015, the graduate programs' assistant and the Dean of the College of Engineering left their positions. (Id.). As of then, Soueidan had completed ten graduate-level courses to fulfill the course credits requirement for his Ph.D., as stated in the Handbook. (Id.).

         In June 2015, Lebeau told Soueidan that he needed to attend a conference to prepare for his qualifying examination. Lebeau and Soueidan attended the AIAA SciTech 2016 conference in San Diego, California, where Soueidan presented his thesis work. (Compl., ¶15). In May 2016, Soueidan met with the graduate coordinator and Lebeau to discuss preparing for Soueidan's qualifying examination. (Compl., ¶16). A few months later, after Soueidan's practice examination, Lebeau told Soueidan that two of the committee members said Soueidan would not pass his examination. (Compl., ¶16). A third committee member said he would have passed Soueidan. (Compl., ¶16).

         In August 2016, Soueidan took the actual qualifying examination. (Compl., ¶17). One committee member told Soueidan before the examination that he did not follow the guidelines for writing his paper and questioned his preparedness for the examination. (Id.) After Soueidan did not pass the examination, Soueidan was instructed to take another written examination and perform additional course work. (Compl, ¶18). In the fall of 2016, Soueidan downgraded to a Master's degree after over four years in the Ph.D. program. (Compl., ¶19).

         Soueidan refers to several sections of the Handbook that he claims were not followed during his matriculation through the Ph.D. program:

• "You should have an advisor assigned within the first few weeks of classes starting." (Compl., ¶27).
• Students are to meet with their advisor in January to complete their Annual Student Review. This review provides an opportunity to "have a review of [his] work completed, create goals for the next year of studies and research, and ensure you are staying on track for graduation." (Compl., ¶29).
• For Engineering students, the Qualifying Exam is scheduled after 2 semesters, " and that "[t]he Qualifying Exam is designed to determine if the student is prepared to continue Ph.D studies and carry on with research." (Compl., ¶31).

         The 2015-2016 SLU Graduate Education Catalog ("the Catalog") indicates that the Parks College of Engineering has a Ph.D. program. (Compl., ¶22). Soueidan alleges, "[h]owever, in practice, students who register for the SLU College of Engineering Ph.D. program are faced with insurmountable hurdles that make it essentially impossible to actually obtain a Ph.D." (Compl., ¶34). Soueidan states that he has been damaged by nearly $200, 000.00 in tuition payments, the difference in the value of a Ph.D. over his career, and the loss of four years or more of his career. (Compl., ¶¶36, 42, 43).

         DISCUSSION

         I. ...


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