View Full Version : The nation’s oldest historically Black institution of higher learning is facing yet another battle–

The Bobster
09-23-2013, 01:02 PM

Cheyney University Seeks To Renew Discrimination Lawsuit Against Commonwealth
September 22, 2013 2:02 PM
By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The nation’s oldest African American institution of higher learning is expected to announce on Monday its effort to revive a decades old civil rights lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The suit claims the state discriminates against Black colleges when distributing state funds.

“Cheyney is treated like the step-child when it comes to the state’s 14 institutions,” says Michael Coard, a Philadelphia attorney and 1982 graduate of Cheyney University.

Coard is leading the grassroots effort “Heeding Cheyney’s Call,” which seeks to revive a 1980 lawsuit alleging violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution and numerous other laws. The suit claims the Commonwealth’s state-college funding formula is inequitable because it ties funding to enrollment. Coard claims the method effectively discriminates against black institutions because they tend to be smaller.

“It becomes a circular argument,” says Coard. “The state doesn’t provide Cheyney with the money it deserves because Cheyney doesn’t have the student enrollment that the other schools have. But how come Cheyney doesn’t have the enrollment that the other schools have? Because they don’t have the money.”

Coard says the suit will seek past and present damages. :rolleyes:

“It would take approximately 100 million dollars to put Cheyney on equal footing with the other schools based on decades long discrimination,” he says. :rolleyes:

Coard says the university settled the 1980 lawsuit 14 years ago, but the Commonwealth has failed to fully comply.

According to a press release sent out on Saturday, Congressmen Chucker Fattah and Bob Brady, as well as other elected officials and Cheyney alum will attend a 10 a.m. press conference at the federal courthouse on Market Street in Old City. Coard says the coalition will send a demand letter to the Commonwealth, the first step to reviving the lawsuit.

The Bobster
10-29-2014, 07:16 PM

Group Says Cheyney University Underfunding is Result of Racial Discrimination
October 29, 2014 2:42 PM
By Cherri Gregg

CHEYNEY, Pa. (CBS) — A coalition of Cheyney University students, staff, and alumni today filed a federal lawsuit alleging decades of racial discrimination, through unfair funding, by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The lawsuit, filed by a group calling itself “Heeding Cheney’s Call,” names governor Tom Corbett, the Pennsylvania Board of Governors, and the US Department of Education as defendants, and claims the funding shortages are the result of racial discrimination in violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. :rolleyes:

“We’re one of 14 state institutions owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Cheyney from the very beginning has been treated like a stepchild,” says Michael Coard, a 1982 Cheyney alumnus who is one of several attorneys representing plaintiffs in the civil rights lawsuit.

The suit revives allegations from a similar suit filed in the 1980s and seeks to enforce a 1999 settlement agreement overseen by the US Department of Education.

“We had hoped to negotiate an out-of-court settlement but that didn’t work,” says Coard, referring to eight months of negotiations with the state, “so now we have to force the Commonwealth to do what it would not do voluntarily.”

“We seek now to make the state and government fullfill its promises,” notes fellow attorney Joe Tucker.

The lawsuit claims Cheyney University has been left behind the 13 other state-owned institutions because of the state’s failure to address issues of “program duplication” left over from a prior system of “separate but equal” education.

“Equality only applies if everybody is treated equally,” says Coard. “Cheyney has not been treated equally. You can’t get equality unless you look at what happened in the past. That’s why we are seeking parity through equity, so we get a level playing field.”

Read the entire 61-page complaint (.pdf format)

Currently, the 177-year-old institution is dealing with a decaying campus, shrinking course offerings, and declining enrollment — all of which, according to supporters, is the result of inequitable treatment and years of inadequate funding.

“We’ve gone from an enrollment of 3,000 down to an enrollment of 1,000. You can’t run a university with 1,000 students,” says E. Sonny Harris, a Cheyney alum and retired professor. “Some of the buildings and pipes are so old that sometimes, in the wintertime, students don’t have heat, they don’t have running water.”

The complaint does not demand a specific amount of damages but instead seeks remedies that would revive Cheyney by expanding its mission and creating new academic programs.

Cheyney University is the nation’s oldest African-American institution of higher learning.

Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education released the following statement in part regarding the lawsuit:
“It is our practice not to comment specifically on ongoing ligation. Cheyney University’s role within Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education and the Commonwealth is important. Our collective goal is to ensure that every student who attends the university receives a high-quality educational experience.

The State System as a whole—including the Office of the Chancellor, the Board of Governors, Cheyney University’s Council of Trustees, and university leadership—is focused on Cheyney’s future. We have been working closely together to identify and address the opportunities and challenges facing the university, especially those that have a direct impact on students.”

The Office of General Counsel, which represents Gov. Corbett, did not respond to a request for comment.

12-19-2014, 09:36 AM

Oldest U.S. black college on verge of financial collapse:p
Wed Dec 17, 2014 5:03pm EST

(Reuters) - The nation's oldest black college, Cheyney University, one of Pennsylvania's 14 state-run universities, is on the verge of a financial meltdown that threatens its ability to continue operating, a state official said on Wednesday.

Cheyney's student body has shrunk by two-thirds, to about 1,000, since its 1983 peak, and its four-year graduation rate is just 9 percent. :rolleyes:A quarter of students never receive a degree, and student loan defaults are high.

"Cheyney is in dire, dire, dire straits," the state's auditor general, Eugene DePasquale, said. The university has had a deficit for four of the last five years, growing to a cumulative $12.3 million shortfall as of June 30, 2013.

Cheyney's fiscal problems - students who are unable to repay debt and increasing pension costs - were exacerbated by cutbacks in state higher education funding.

The Bobster
07-18-2015, 06:37 AM

Cheyney University Alumni Dispel Takeover Rumors
July 18, 2015 4:00 AM

Cheyney alum met on Wednesday at Zion Baptist Church in North Philadelphia. (Credit: Cherri Gregg)

By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Scores of Cheyney University alumni met in North Philadelphia this week to discuss the future of the financially strapped school.

Less than a month after it was announced that Cheyney University and it’s neighbor, West Chester University, would begin collaborating, alumni began to fear worst: that the nation’s oldest historically Black institution of higher ed would be taken over.

“It’s not true, that’s a bad, bad rumor,” says E. Sonny Harris, a longtime professor at Cheyney University. While he admits that the school is facing a multi-million dollar deficit, plagued by sub par facilities and a declining enrollment that will hit roughly 750 when it opens this fall, he is hopeful.

“We hope that in three years, we can get the enrollment up to 2500,” says Harris. :rolleyes:

“The students that normally go to Cheyney are all going to West Chester now, it just doesn’t seem fair,” says Cheryl Merriweather Harper, a 1969 Cheyney grad. Her sister Barbara is class of ’70. Both are devastated at the current state of their beloved institution.

“A lot of us wouldn’t be who we are or where we are without Cheyney,” says Harper, who worked her way up in the department of education.

Attorney Michael Coard, who is also an alum of the school, represents Heeding Cheyney’s Call. The group of alumni sued the Pennsylvania Dept of education last year, alleging decades of discrimination in funding left the school cash-strapped. He says the group is hoping to settle their civil rights lawsuit. :rolleyes:

“Based on the negotiation, Cheyney’s going to be back on its feet in the next few months, bigger, better and blacker,” says Coard. He notes that settlements and court cases could take months or even years. So in the meantime, collaborating with the larger and more popular West Chester University, will provide a much-needed lifeline.

“The collaboration is going to help both schools move forward,” says Coard, “but the collaboration does not mean takeover– I would never let that happen.”

A West Chester University spokesman says they look forward to the collaboration and that the universities will remain separate institutions.

The Bobster
08-28-2015, 04:36 PM

Cheyney University’s Financial Woes Getting Worse
August 28, 2015 3:03 PM
By Paul Kurtz

CHEYNEY, Pa. (CBS) – Financially beleaguered Cheyney University is facing another crisis.

The school may owe the US Department of Education more than $29-million due to mismanagement of financial aid funds for students.

The troubling findings are in a report the Pa. System of Higher Education has submitted to the DOE based on an investigation conducted by an outside firm.

“They reviewed more than 4,000 records of students who’ve received financial aid and they discovered a significant amount of errors in those records,” says system spokesman Kenn Marshall. “Nearly 85-percent error rate.”

The outside firm, Financial Aid Services of Atlanta, is now operating the financial aid office at Cheyney and Marshall says the situation has improved:

“The first year that FAS took over the error rate was reduced to 1.6-percent, which is certainly a much more acceptable rate.”

The feds will conduct its own investigation and determine how much Cheney will have to return.

Interim President Frank Pogue has released a statement saying the University has made numerous corrections.

Cheyney has been hobbled by a $30-million budget deficit and drooping enrollment.

The Bobster
11-05-2015, 02:13 PM

Alum Gear Up For Rally To Pressure Gov. Wolf To Save Cheyney
November 5, 2015 3:43 PM By Cherri Gregg
By Cherri Gregg


CHEYNEY, Pa., (CBS) — Alumni from Cheyney University, the nation’s oldest historically Black institution of higher learning, are gearing up for a rally to show Governor Tom Wolf they’re serious about saving their beloved alma mater.

“Black lives matter, parity through equity! :rolleyes:,” chanted members of Heeding Cheyney’s Call, a group of Cheyney University alumni and supporters. The group sued the Pennsylvania System of Higher Learning last year, renew a federal civil rights lawsuit that alleged decades of discrimination against Cheyney through inadequate funding. They claim the deficit accumulated to roughly $100 million and the result is visible today — Cheyney University is mired in millions of dollars in debt and a shrinking enrollment that hovers near 700.

“We had been negotiating we had been trying to work out a settlement, but we are a little disappointed,” says Coard.

HCC wants funding and other efforts from the Commonwealth that would help revive the institution. Coard says talks stalled under the Corbett administration and are slow under Wolf.

“We haven’t gotten the reception that we expected,” he says.

So HCC is hoping to show the Governor they’re serious about saving Cheyney. They are rallying alumni and putting them on buses headed to Harrisburg on Tuesday morning.

“We hope that we fill all the buses and take enlightened but mostly angry people to demand that Black minds matter,” says Coard.

The Philadelphia NAACP is backing the group.

“The math makes the argument right there,” says Minister Rodney Muhammad, president. “To have ill funded this instruction for that number of years is a travesty. We should not turn a blind eye and deaf ear to this problem.”

But funding is just part of the problem. Many of the school buildings are in disrepair. Enrollment is at all time low. Programs are shrinking. Cheyney created a partnership with nearby West Chester University to share resources.

“We don’t want West Chester or any other state school to take over Cheyney,” says Ron McCoy, Cheyney class of 1981. “We want Cheyney to continue to exist. It has a purpose.”

Ken Marshall, spokesman for Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education wrote in an email:

“We don’t comment specifically on ongoing litigation. In general, we believe both the Commonwealth and the State System are committed to the long-term success of Cheney University and we are working closely with the leadership of Cheyney, including the administration and the Council of Trustees, toward that shared goal.”

No comment from the Wolf Administration.

The Bobster
11-10-2015, 03:56 PM

Cheney University Wants State To Help Save It
Published 6 hours ago

Advocates for a struggling historically black college in Pennsylvania are taking their message to the state Capitol to press officials to help save it amid plunging enrollment.

Cheyney University's enrollment of about 700 undergraduate and graduate students is about half what it was in 2009.

About 200 Cheyney supporters attended a Harrisburg rally on Tuesday. Advocates say decades of discrimination by the state system :rolleyes: and foot-dragging on other court cases has left Cheyney in a dire financial situation.

Cheyney supporters originally filed a bias lawsuit against the state in 1980. But they say the formula for funding the state system's 14 schools is still skewed against smaller schools like Cheyney.

A spokesman for the state system says it is trying to help Cheyney and that the school's per-pupil allocation is nearly four times the average for the other universities.

The Bobster
12-01-2015, 05:55 AM

Cheyney University Fighting To Keep Accreditation
December 1, 2015 4:00 AM By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The nation’s oldest historically Black institution of higher learning is facing yet another battle– this time for its accreditation.

As KYW Community Affairs reporter Cherri Gregg tells us, a regional accrediting body has put Cheyney University on probation. :p

The 178-year-old Cheyney University has faced declining enrollment, as its number of students dipped to the all-time low of roughly 700 students.

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education concluded the state-owned school lacked evidence that its “institutional resources” met the required standard.

“This accreditation will actually help Cheyney,” attorney Michael Coard told KYW Newsradio.

Coard represents Heeding Cheyney’s Call, a group that filed a civil rights suit against the Pennsylvania System of Higher Education, alleging decades of discrimination in funding. :rolleyes:

“It strengthens the lawsuit we filed,” Coard said.

Cheyney will maintain its accreditation, but has two years to meet regional standards.

They must file a report by next September.

P.A.S.S.H.E. and Cheyney issued a statement saying they will work together to address the issues raised.