The City of Philadelphia filed an amicus brief last Friday in support of a Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission finding that Chestnut Hill College was subject to the commission’s jurisdiction in a case of alleged discrimination in the expulsion of a student.
The jurisdiction question followed a finding earlier this year by the PHRC that Chestnut Hill College had a history of harsher penalties for minority students and ruled that the 2012 expulsion of senior Alan-Michael Meads, a black student who initiated the complaint against the school with the HRC, should be reversed.
Meads was expelled after he failed to turn in proceeds from a school production of “Raisin in the Sun” he had directed.
Chestnut Hill College appealed the PHRC’s ruling on the grounds that as a religious institution, it was not subject to the PHRC’s jurisdiction.
“The jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission does not, in any way, interfere with the college’s religious freedom,” City Solicitor Sozi Pedro Tulante said in a statement. “We are pleased to file in support of the Commission in this very important case. Discrimination has no place in our institutions of higher learning, nor does it have any place in Philadelphia.”
Chestnut Hill College was not deterred by the filing. In a statement from college Director of Communications Kathleen Spigelmeyer, it promised to continue to seek relief in court.
“Chestnut Hill College respectfully disagrees with the position taken in the amicus brief and we look forward to a decision from the Commonwealth Court concerning this matter,” the statement read.
8th District Councilwoman City Bass, who represents Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy and a significant portion of Northwest Philadelphia, said she supported the city filing. In October, Bass joined councilwoman-at-large Helen Gym in sponsoring a resolution condemning the college for fighting the resolution in early October.
“I feel very strongly that challenging the PHRC’s jurisdiction stands diametrically opposed to Chestnut Hill College’s stated mission, in addition to setting a dangerous precedent,” she said. “I fully support the City’s brief and look forward to an ongoing dialogue to try to find ways to bring about a positive outcome that acknowledges that racial discrimination still exists.”
Pete Mazzaccaro can be reached at 215-248-8802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.