A white chemistry professor at Camden County College who says his less qualified Black colleagues are being paid more has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit in federal court.
In a nine-page lawsuit filed against the college Friday in U.S. District Court in Camden, William T. Lavell, a professor for more than 25 years, alleges he has suffered ”severe emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation and loss of self-esteem.” He alleges “stark racial disparities” between his compensation and the salaries paid to two Black professors.
According to the lawsuit, Lavell and two engineering professors, Lawrence Chatman and Melvin Roberts, held the same position of professor and have similar qualifications and tenure. Lavell holds three professional degrees in his area of certification, while Roberts holds two and Chatman holds one, the lawsuit says.
Chatman’s salary for 2020 was $137,157, while Roberts’ salary for 2021 was $142,600, according to the suit. Lavell’s salary for 2021 is $91,923, the lawsuit says. The filing did not indicate where Lavell’s salary ranked when compared with other chemistry professors in his department. Lavell and his lawyer did not respond to messages Tuesday.
Lavell discovered the pay discrepancy after requesting the college’s salary records under the state’s Open Public Records Act in September, according to the lawsuit.
Two months later, Lavell filed a race discrimination complaint with college president Donald Borden and other school officials, according to the lawsuit. A proposal by Lavell to bring his salary in line with nonwhite counterparts was rejected, the lawsuit says.
Lavell also submitted a comparative analysis of the racial salary disparities between him and nonwhites, the lawsuit said. School officials refused to investigate his complaint, the suit said.
Borden did not respond to a message Tuesday. Ron Tomasello, a college spokesperson, declined comment.
Roberts and Chatman are not defendants in the case, filed by William Rieser, a Philadelphia employment lawyer. Neither responded to messages Tuesday.
According to the lawsuit, Lavell, 66, was hired by the college in 1995. He has served as a professor, department chairman, and dean. In 2016, he was named interim dean of the division of math, science and health careers.
In a 2019 post on ratemyprofessor.com, Lavell, of Annapolis, Md., received a positive review from a Chemistry 101 student who called him “absolutely the best teacher I’ve honestly ever had.”
“He gave numerous attempts for extra credit and seriously cares about every person passing the class. He doesn’t go off the book and goes at his pace what he thinks is necessary to be taught. I highly recommend him!!! I loved this man” the student wrote.
Established in 1965, Camden County College enrolls about 17,000 students pursuing degree and certificate programs at its main campuses in Blackwood and Camden.
The lawsuit seeks salary and benefits Lavell believes he was entitled to receive, as well as damages and legal fees.