A coalition of alumni, students, faculty, and community leaders called Heeding Cheyney’s Call has filed a federal lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to “end decades-long and intolerably worsening racial discrimination against historic Cheyney University, an all-time great institution that now has an all-time low student enrollment and an all-time high budget deficit.”
Cheyney University was founded in 1837 and is now part of the 14-campus Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. In 1969, the federal government identified Pennsylvania as one of 10 states that still operated a racially segregated system of public higher education. A race discrimination lawsuit was filed in 1980 and in 1999 a settlement was reached that provided $36.5 million for Cheyney.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit note that enrollments have dropped to just over 1,000 students from a high of 3,000 and that the university now has a multimillion dollar budget deficit. Only two new buildings have been constructed on campus over the past 30 years.
The lawsuit calls for “parity through equity.” It wants the state of “enhance existing academic programs at university, acquire, new, high-demand academic programs, to provide for adequate resources, including (but not limited to) increased funding, improved facilities, state-of-the-art equipment, effective recruiting, and experienced marketing.” The group also wants the courts to have oversight over the reforms.
The group has also filed suit against the federal government for not taking action against the alleged unlawful racial discrimination by Pennsylvania.