Chinese student alleges in lawsuit that UMass violated his civil rights

  • The University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) campus Courtesy photo

For the Gazette
Published: 5/3/2018 9:33:10 PM

AMHERST — A Chinese student at the University of Massachusetts has filed a lawsuit against the university claiming his civil rights were violated because he was denied an interpreter during disciplinary hearings.

Zhaozhong Du, a third-year architecture student and Chinese national who’s first language is Mandarin, has been suspended on an interim basis from the university since March 28 following an alleged assault incident.

Du was arrested in his dorm room in Birch Hall and charged with assault early in the morning on March 27 after his roommate said Du threatened him with a box cutter. Those charges remain pending in Eastern Hampshire District Court.

According to a motion filed by Du’s attorney, Dana Goldblatt, Du believed his roommate was an intruder, and only brandished the box cutter in self-defense. Upon realizing there was no intruder, Du put down the box cutter and returned to bed without further incident, according to the motion filed by Goldblatt.

Du’s roommate, however, told police that Du continued to approach him while opening and closing the box cutter, and that he thought Du was going to kill him, according to the police report.

Goldblatt said that Du was not properly able to explain himself in administrative hearings with UMass officials because no interpreter was made available for him, and thus, his civil rights to due process and to be heard in his own defense were violated.

Goldblatt’s motion also describes how Du and his roomate did not have a good relationship, arguing that his roommate likely “misinterpreted” Du’s actions.

Du was ultimately given a three-week “interim” suspension, which bars him from attending class or stepping foot on campus. According to Goldblatt, this interim suspension will make it impossible for Du, who she described as a “nice, shy kid,” to graduate this year as planned.

“I think that they’re taking advantage of him,” Goldblatt said over the phone Thursday. “I don’t think they would treat an American student like this,” adding that she believes the university’s actions constitute “discrimination.”

Patricia Cardose-Erase, associate dean of students for conduct and compliance at UMass, said in an email to Goldblatt that Du “was directly asked whether he needed an interpreter … he stated he did not.”

Goldblatt denies that Du was ever asked whether he needed an interpreter, pointing out that Du requested a translator in court and was granted one.

On April 12, Goldblatt filled a motion for an emergency restraining order that would force the university to permit Du to attend classes until a final decision was made by the administration.

The motion was withdrawn on April 17 after an agreement was reached between Du and the university, court records show.

But according to Goldblatt, UMass violated that agreement. She said attorneys representing UMass told her that Du would be permitted to attend classes again if the motion was withdrawn.

But over two weeks later, Du is still barred from campus, according to Goldblatt.

“UMass said they would do something and then didn’t,” she said. “The goal of the motion was to prevent irremediable damages, but that ship has sailed.”

About 20 students attended a hearing on April 17 in support of Du after Student Government Association President Timmy Sullivan and Vice President Nathalie Amazan spoke out about the matter on Facebook.

“Students are encouraged to come show your support for Zhaozhong and to encourage the dean’s office to reinstate him immediately,” a post from their joint Facebook account “Nat and Timmy” read.

The university has no comment on the matter, spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski said Thursday.


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