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White professor files racial discrimination lawsuit, says two black colleagues paid far more

Alleges college’s racial pay discrimination has caused him ‘permanent and irreparable harm’

A white professor is alleging racial discrimination after discovering that two of his black colleagues’ salaries significantly outmatch his own.

William Lavell, a professor at the New Jersey-based Camden County College, discovered a salary disparity between himself and two black colleagues, Lawrence Chatman and Melvin Roberts, after filing a public records act request, his lawsuit states.

Chatman and Roberts, both engineering professors, make at least $45,000 more than Lavell, despite both having fewer professional degrees than Lavell, the lawsuit alleges.

“Through his Open Public Records Act request, Plaintiff Lavell discovered stark racial disparities in salary between himself and his similarly situated, non-Caucasian counterparts,” it states.

It notes Professor Chatman’s salary in 2020 was $137,157 and Professor Roberts’ salary for 2021 was $142,606. The lawsuit notes the two professors are African-American.

“Plaintiff Lavell, by contrast, would earn $91,923 in 2021. Chatman, Roberts, and Lavell all held the same position, Professor,” the lawsuit argues. “Further, Plaintiff Lavell had three professional degrees in his field of concentration as compared to Chatman, who had one, and Roberts, who had two.”

WTMA, in reporting on the situation, noted that Chatman has taught at the school for 30 years and Roberts 31 years, according to online records. Lavell, 66, has taught chemistry at the college for over 25 years.

Lavell filed a lawsuit against the college, a copy of which was attained by The College Fix, alleging race discrimination and presenting a proposal that would have brought his salary to the level “commensurate with his similarly situated, non-Caucasian counterparts.”

The lawsuit alleges that Lavell “sustained permanent and irreparable harm which caused him to sustain a loss of earnings,” in addition to “severe emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation, and loss of self-esteem.”

Lavell’s suit also claimed that the college had “failed and refused to investigate or address Plaintiff’s Lavell’s complaint of race discrimination.”

The college has denied Lavell’s claims.

Ron Tomasello, director of communications at the college, spoke against Lavell’s accusations.

In an email statement to The College Fix, Tomasello said, “We do not ordinarily comment on litigation, however, the allegations are so outrageous we are compelled to do so.”

“The allegation that any differentiation in pay is race based is offensive and blatantly untrue. Further, Mr. Lavell falsely claims the College refused to investigate his complaint. This also is untrue. The fact is the College investigated and determined there was no merit to his claim.”

Tomasello explained the college’s pay disparity: “Mr. Lavell, like all full-time tenured faculty, is part of a union. … The qualification comparisons identified by Mr. Lavell are not those that the contract uses to determine salaries.”

Tomasello was quick to note that the college “will vigorously defend this frivolous case … confident in a favorable outcome.”

Lavell has received high praise on Rate My Professor, with one student describing him as “the best teacher I’ve honestly ever had … seriously cares about every person passing the class.”

Another student named Lavell “probably one of the best professors at Camden County College.”

Neither Lavell nor his lawyer responded to multiple phone and email requests for comment by The College Fix.

Lavell seeks more than $150,000 in damages.

“The laws for discrimination are there for a reason. Whether you’re white, Black or brown, it doesn’t matter, you can’t be treated unfairly,” employment lawyer Jamison Mark told NJ.com.

MORE: Teacher ‘scapegoated’ for censoring HS student’s yearbook photo gets $325k settlement

IMAGE: Ulf Wittrock / Shutterstock

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Isaac Willour is a freshman at Grove City College studying political science. He is a regular contributor for GCC's college newspaper, The Collegian, as well as Lone Conservative. He serves on the executive board for the GCC Journal of Law & Public Policy and the Grove City Executive Council for the American Enterprise Institute.