Rosemarie Arnold represents gay college student in lawsuit over change in dorm room

Seton Hall gay student from Ridgefield Park sues over change in dorm room
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Last updated: Wednesday March 16, 2011, 9:35 AM
The Record

A Seton Hall University student from Ridgefield Park is suing the school, alleging that he was thrown out of his dorm room because he is gay.

Jesse Cruz, a junior studying public relations, said he registered for a dorm room last August, paid close to $4,000 for a full semester of housing, and was assigned to a double room at Xavier Hall.

His roommate, however, complained that he did not want to share a room with Cruz, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Monday in federal court in Newark.

The school’s policy is that any student who is not happy with their living arrangement for any reason can ask to be moved on “Room Change Day,” and school officials will find them another room.

In Cruz’s case, however, school officials moved Cruz to a room in another dormitory building instead of moving the other student, Cruz’s attorney, Rosemarie Arnold said Tuesday.

Cruz, 20, said he then told school officials he was happy with his initial room and that he believed he had been moved because of his sexual orientation.

He said he then received a letter from the school giving him the option to either move into a triple room or switch to a room “with a Chinese roommate.”

Cruz said he did not take the other options.

“I didn’t think it was fair that I was being moved because I was gay,” he said.

Cruz said he slept on the floor in a friend’s dorm room for more than two weeks while his attorney wrote a letter to the school asking that Cruz be allowed to move back to his first room.

Katherine Suga, a lawyer representing Seton Hall, replied to Arnold on Sept. 29, saying Cruz had not been moved from his room. “The University has never taken any action against Mr. Cruz based on his sexual preference,” Suga wrote.

Cruz said he moved back to his dorm — with a different roommate — and has not had any problems since.

But he said he wants to be compensated for the time he was forced to sleep on the floor, and for emotional and psychological trauma he said he sustained.

“On a moral level, we are seeking to make sure that this never happens again,” Arnold said. “We as parents send our children into the real world for the first time when we send them to college, and we expect the college to treat them responsibly.”

Greg Tobin, a spokesman for Seton Hall, said the school has not yet seen the lawsuit.

“We do not yet have a copy of the complaint, so we are not in a position to comment at this time,” he said Tuesday.

Arnold said Cruz was “a brave young man” to come forward with his concern.

“They threw Jesse a fastball that he didn’t have to catch at this age,” she said.

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