The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission has found "probable cause" to suggest that Chestnut Hill College discriminated against a black student by expelling him for alleged theft while allowing white students suspected of theft and other offenses to remain enrolled.
The college expelled Allan-Michael Meads in March 2012, weeks before he was to graduate, after disciplinary proceedings.
The commission, in a "finding of probable cause" dated July 20, said it found no evidence to support that Meads "intended to deceive, steal, or misappropriate funds" collected from a student performance of A Raisin in the Sun to benefit the Lupus Foundation.
Chestnut Hill College denied the allegations and said it would present its case at a hearing.
"His expulsion had nothing to do with his race," said Ed Schwabenland, general counsel for the college. "We intend to prove it."
The commission's findings of probable cause typically are not made public. But the documents began circulating among staff and alumni in the last week, including copies put out by the Chestnut Hill College Alumni of Color Collective. Matters typically become public when they go to a hearing.
In an interview Monday, Meads said he filed the complaint because the college treated him unfairly.
"I want to be a voice for those who are afraid to speak up, and stand up and get my name cleared," said Meads, 27, who grew up in Montgomery County and now lives in Philadelphia.
"I want that off my record. There was no theft."
After he was expelled, he went on to obtain a bachelor's degree in psychology from Cheyney University.
Meads committed no other offenses while at Chestnut Hill, from 2007 through 2012, the commission said. He worked as a resident assistant at the college, served as a mentor at a local middle school, and participated in a musical club.
In the fall of 2011, he began to work with the African American Awareness Society on a production of A Raisin in the Sun and agreed to donate 20 percent of the profits to the Lupus Foundation, the document said. The production's four performances each drew about 300 people. Meads gave complimentary tickets to about 80 students from his former middle school and to businesses that gave him discounts on products he needed for the production, the document said.
Afterward, he gave the Lupus Foundation $500, and used the remainder of the proceeds to host a cast and crew party at an Applebee's restaurant.
The college expelled Meads, saying "he was not truthful in reporting proceeds from the play and expended money for his own benefit, including $800 on a cast and crew party," the document states.
The college maintained that the production made more money than he claimed, and ordered him turn over $2,248 more to the Lupus Foundation.
Meads eventually paid the $2,248. In the interview, Meads said he did so because that was the only way for his transcripts to be transferred to Cheyney.
Meads also said he was never contacted by police or charged with a crime.
The finding's "terms of adjustment" include: removal of the expulsion from Meads' record, reimbursing him for his Cheyney tuition, paying him $2,248 in restitution, and providing him with "three years' salary equal to the average earnings of a Chestnut Hill graduate."
The commission was able to obtain disciplinary records that it said showed the college was harder on black students.
"One hundred percent of the AfricanAmerican students charged with a violation were either expelled or suspended," the finding states. "Many white students that were found liable for violating student codes of conduct either received no discipline, warnings, mediation, reflection papers, fines, or probation. Most white or Hispanic students that received suspensions were either suspended for the remainder of the semester, one semester, or two semesters with the option to reenroll in the college.
"Every white student involved in a theft offense was given the opportunity to make restitution and apologize."
Other white students who were given less severe punishments for theft include a woman who stole her roommate's car keys and used the vehicle, a man who fled a cab without paying the fare, and a student who stole $20 out of a wallet.
The commission also found other violations for which lesser punishments were meted out, including the case of a white male found in possession of a "large quantity of marijuana . . . weighing scale, unused small bags, grinder, a straight blade, and already packaged dime bags with marijuana already inside, there was 3 of those." He was suspended for two semesters.
A Hispanic male who used offensive language, threatened, and harassed got a one-semester suspension.
"In the past year, [the student] has also threatened a teacher, thrown expensive instruments, and solved a misunderstanding with another student with a physical altercation," the document said of the Hispanic student.