Katrina Cleaveland has filed a lawsuit against Westminster College for alleged discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
Cleaveland, who suffers from a degenerative condition that resulted in hearing loss, said that Westminster College’s student housing department made her feel like a bother for being deisabled and using a service dog for help. She said that the school stuck her with different roommates who were allergic to dogs, forcing her to move eight different times.
“The reasons were always just ridiculous as to why I had to move,” Cleaveland said. “The whole school doesn’t have dog allergies, you know? There’s got to be an apartment out there that has an open room.”
“Either Katrina was very very unlucky, or the college just wasn’t taking any steps to make sure that she wasn’t the one that was consistently being uprooted,” said her attorney, Amanda Mendenhall. “Her health professionals, her family, and her college advisors had said that she needed stable housing on campus to succeed, and so it seemed really peculiar.”
Cleaveland said one student in particular tried to get rid of her for good by blaming her for a picture her roommate posted in the apartment. The picture showed racist imagery.
“You have to really look at it to determine what it is, and it’s hateful. It’s very anti-semitic. It’s very hateful,” Mendenhall said. “The reason she was found ‘complicit’ was because she let the picture hang so long.”
Later, the roommate and her friend admitted that they drew the picture. However, neither of them have been punished.
Cleaveland was banned from student housing for an entire year.
Westminster College sent the following letter explaining the decision.
“The College has determined that there is not sufficient evidence that you produced or contributed to offensive content in the illustration and are therefore are not (sic) responsible for Harassment,” the letter read. “In consultation with the Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Karnell McConnell-Black, you will be placed on residence hall suspension and deferred suspension effective September 17, 2019. Deferred (sic) suspension allows you to remain a current student and provide an opportunity for you to demonstrate an ability to comply with college policies until graduation.”
Cleaveland appealed the decision and the appeal panel determined, “that there were two instances of substantial procedural error” in the investigation against Cleaveland. However, the hearing officer supported the school’s decision to suspend Cleaveland from student housing.
Cleaveland said one of the most important things she seeks from the lawsuit is to have her academic record cleared.