Chatham students raise concerns of racial discrimination at Café Rachel


Outside Café Rachel on Feb. 23. Photo Credit: Jackie Clark

Jackie Clark

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee (DEI) of Chatham University’s Student Government (CSG) has responded to student allegations of racial discrimination from a Café Rachel employee. Class 2025 Representative Anna Betar and Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Melissa Redding ‘23 said it seems to be a concern for students of different backgrounds, but members of Black Student Union (BSU) and Muslim Student Association (MSA) appear to be targeted the most based on group discussions with cultural student organizations. 

President of the MSA Hannah Gearhart ‘26 described her experiences. 

“Personally, I have been charged extra for my orders at Cafe Rachel. I addressed them to a higher-up but only to be told it was a simple mistake,” she said. 

According to Redding, CSG members first became aware of these concerns when a student came to a meeting last semester. Betar said the student talked about being overcharged by a particular employee after noticing the difference in charge to non-BIPOC students. Gearhart said that she talked with other minority students who were charged extra as well.

“These students have mentioned being upcharged on a variety of items such as coffee and pastries, being watched at the shop in the grocery section [and] a general feeling of Café Rachel not being a safe place,” Redding said.

Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Chris Purcell described the standard process for the discrimination investigation. There must be a verbal or written grievance from students with the specific examples of the discrimination to initiate an investigation. 

However, he said there is difficulty with following up with these issues because few students provide a written grievance. 

“I understand that it is not easy to bring instances forward for fear of retaliation and other power dynamics, but formal reporting is essential for my ability to follow up,” he said.

If he does not have written grievances of specific examples, he can still meet with the department leaders to discuss the issues brought to his attention. To address the concerns raised in the student government meetings, he is working with the Assistant Dean of Student Services Colvin Georges. 

Dean Purcell has talked with Nick Corbett, the general manager of Parkhurst, about these allegations since few students have publicly come forward with their experiences. In an email to the Communiqué on Feb. 14, Parkhurst Dining provided a statement to respond to the allegations. 

“We have been made aware of allegations of inconsistent treatment of guests and team members at Café Rachel, as well as guests being mischarged,” the email read. “Parkhurst Dining does not condone discriminatory behavior, as it goes against our core value of advancing diversity, equity and inclusion. We take these concerns seriously, and we are taking the necessary steps to investigate and take appropriate action to address all concerns brought to our attention.” 

A collaboration between the DEI Committee and the BSU was recently formed to address these issues. Gearhart expressed that the DEI committee has been doing its best, but it has been a tricky, long process to enact change.

BSU’s President and the Vice President of the Class of 2024 Ashanti Lopez shared her frustrations about the ongoing problems. 

“I am very upset that little initiative has been [shown] despite the evidence, and it seems like they are not protecting the students and are protecting the perpetrators. We will be speaking with other administrators and faculty who have not been made aware,” Lopez said. 

Lopez urged students to print receipts if they notice issues with their purchases. Betar explained that it shows concrete proof of an inaccurate charge and the date, time and item of purchase. They also recommended emailing their specific experiences to Corbett. 

“It is important that we have as many cases [and] evidence of discrimination documented as we can to have a strong case,” explained Redding. She stressed to students that all information will be kept strictly confidential. “I want the campus community to know that, although you may not see the physical effects of it, we on the DEI and Food committees, as well as the BSU, have been working diligently to correct this egregious issue with many collaborators on campus.” 

Chatham Student Government holds meetings in-person and virtually via Zoom 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Thursdays in the Conover Room in Mellon Center. 

If you have any information and want to share your experiences, contact the following email addresses: