The University of Cincinnati's campus, as seen in 2011.
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By Emma Ockerman
July 6, 2016

A 19-year-old premed student is suing the University of Cincinnati for preventing men and women from working together in physics laboratories.

The student, Casey Helmicki, is asking the school to stop segregating the labs, according to lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati. Helmicki told the Cincinnati Enquirer Tuesday that the university was in direct violation of federal Title IX provisions, and that “as a woman in science, studying chemistry in neuroscience, it was alarming that a school like UC would allow something like this to be permitted in the classroom.”

She said that on her first day of a physics lab last August, she was told to work only with other female students and that “women shouldn’t be working with men in science.”

Helmicki named the university, its former Title IX coordinator, two professors and the teaching assistant who allegedly kept her from working with male students as defendants in the lawsuit. The head of the universities physics department told Helmicki that the university didn’t have a policy mandating that students be segregated by gender, though her professor said “having all female groups is better” in a September email exchange, the Enquirer reports.

The university has until July 25 to respond in federal court.

Ken Petren, dean of the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, in which the department of physics is held, said in a statement to TIME Wednesday that he was made aware of Helmicki’s complaint last fall, which caused him to call the head of the university’s physics department, Kay Kinoshita.

“She reported back that it was an isolated student teaching assistant who had misinterpreted instructions as to how to guide students to form groups,” Petren said in the statement.

“It is our understanding that this problem was isolated, lasted only a short period of time and was corrected. It is certainly not our policy to segregate students by gender. It is our goal to foster the best learning environment for our students by providing options when forming groups. We will continue to talk to our instructors to make sure they are following these guidelines.”



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