by Sue Anne Rybak

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission said it has found that “probable cause” exists in a complaint filed against Chestnut Hill College by an African American student who claims that the college “excessively punished and expelled him” based on his race in a case involving an alleged theft.

In a letter dated July 20, the commission said it found no evidence to support that Allan-Michael Meads “intended to deceive, steal, or misappropriate funds.”

The commission report said that disciplinary records obtained from the college showed that the college tended to be more lenient on white students compared to measures taken against African American students.

“One hundred percent of the African-American students charged with a violation were either expelled or suspended,” the report found. “Many white students that were found liable for violating student codes of conduct either received no discipline, warnings, mediation, reflection papers, fines or probation.”

A letter written by Sister Carol Jean Vale, president of Chestnut Hill College, said, “The college maintains that it acted appropriately and reasonably given the facts of this case, and we look forward to a hearing before the PHRC.”

Kevin Feeley, a spokesman for the college said that “discrimination played no part in this case.”

“The college wants a hearing because we believe that when all the facts in this case come to light, the college’s decision in this case will be upheld,” he said.

In a Nov, 24 article on the case, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that “Meads said he filed the complaint because the college treated him unfairly.”

In the article, Meads said: “I want to be a voice for those who are afraid to speak up, and stand up and get my name cleared. I want that off my record. There was no theft.”

According to the PHRC report, in the Fall of 2011, Meads, who was scheduled to graduate in May 2012, began plans to put on a production of the play “A Raisin in the Sun” in collaboration with the African American Awareness Society and agreed to give 20 percent of the profits to the Lupus Foundation. Four performances of the play were held in February, and approximately 300 people attended each performance.

Meads, who worked as resident assistant at the college and mentored at a local middle school, gave about 80 complimentary tickets to middle school students and businesses that provided discounts on items he purchased for the play, the document said.

A day after the last performance, Meads, who grew up in Montgomery County and now lives in Philadelphia, gave $500 to the Lupus Foundation.

According to the document, on Feb. 28, 2012, the college emailed him, “reminding him that the money from the performance had not yet been deposited.”

The report stated the college “calculated that there should have been approximately $2,248 in profits from the attendance and concessions for complainant to deposit.”

The report went on to say that the college expelled Meads because “he was not truthful in reporting proceeds from the play and expended money for his own benefit, including eight-hundred dollars ($800) on a cast and crew party.”

Reaction on the school’s Facebook page was mixed.

“This a shame,” wrote Tanya Simmons. “Both my husband and I graduated from CHC I was the last class of all women and he was the first coed graduating class our time there was certainly welcoming and accepting we still encourage people to attend CHC our daughter is a junior and we hope it is on her list. I am sure that even though times change CHC remains a place of acceptance for all. I love my school.”

“It’s great to hear that people believe the fondest thoughts about Chestnut Hill College,” responded Que Inman. “But note that everyone experiences something different, your experience may have been welcoming but other students don’t feel that way. I can attest to that personally, there are certain members of this college community who made African American students feel unwelcome.”

To read the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission’s report go to https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxkOvywQGzLUQXJ0T0hZZFZWZlU/view.

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