HATTIESBURG, Miss. — The University of Southern Mississippi has denied the claims of a Hispanic woman that she was discriminated against in her pursuit of a master’s degree.
The Hattiesburg American reports Maria Salcido, who lives in Wisconsin, filed the suit July 10 in Forrest County Circuit Court. It was moved to U.S. District Court on Aug. 22.
Salcido was in the marriage and family therapy master’s program at USM until 2009, when she had to move back to Wisconsin, according to her complaint. She is seeking damages in an amount to be determined by a jury, as well as injunctive relief to provide her a “reasonable opportunity” to complete her master’s degree.
Also named as defendants are university president Martha Saunders, Rebecca Woodrick, who is in charge of the university’s equal employment and affirmative action office, and Charles West, who heads the marriage and family therapy department. Among other things, the defendants also say they are entitled to various immunities from civil lawsuits because they were performing duties within their professional capacities.
In its Aug. 23 response to the lawsuit, USM officials said Salcido failed to exhaust all the administrative remedies available to her to address her complaints.
Both Salcido and USM have said the only thing between Salcido and graduation is 500 externship hours.
The complaint, which represents one side of the issue, accuses USM of failing to provide Salcido with an externship based on her race, as well as assigning fewer clients to her, resulting in insufficient externship hours.
Faculty told her she needed to secure an externship with Hispanic clients, which the department could not find for her, the complaint states.
USM officials said any damages are the result of Salcido’s own conduct and that she may be guilty of contributory fault or affirmative conduct that led to her damages.