Students react to former dean Cecilia Chang scandal

A week after the FBI arrested ex-St. John’s dean Cecilia Chang, students are still reacting to the allegations that Chang forced students to work for her in exchange for keeping their scholarships. This is in addition to a state investigation that has brought Chang up on more than 200 charges relating to embezzlement of University money.

In an affidavit that was issued by the FBI in the Federal District Court in Brooklyn last Thursday, Chang is said to have “threatened” the students, telling them that she was “the boss,” and forcing them to perform duties such as cooking, cleaning, shoveling the driveway and driving her around in her car.

A graduate student who identified herself as a good friend of one of the affected students said her friend was “terrified” to talk to the Torch in fear that the former dean would find out.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” said the student, who wishes to remain unnamed. “I watch the news and she said she doesn’t think it’s improper, but I think it’s definitely not [proper], because you’re not supposed to hire students to work in your house.”

The affidavit contained information the FBI received from four confidential informants was comprised of students and University staff members and included statements from several of Chang’s student workers.

One of the student statements read: “[Chang] let me be the housekeeper for her house and give me the scholarship. We have three housekeeper before, and she ask us work 122 days per year per person.”

Sophomore Alexa Peyton said she thinks the news of Chang’s criminal behavior is overwhelming.

“They trusted her with getting money and getting stuff done for the school,” said Peyton. “That’s a total betrayal of what the University expected of her. I heard about it a few days ago and I didn’t even know if it was true or not. It’s crazy.”

Dan Hongwu, a freshmen, felt similarly about the situation.

“I feel that she can’t do that because she was in a higher position. She asked a student to do something for her that is very bad.”

While many students feel betrayed and angry about the scandal, a majority of them are still struggling with why it took St. John’s multiple years to uncover Chang’s work.

Junior Helen Cheriyan said her first thought when reading the story was “how did no one find out earlier?” and freshman Brian Singkuan said, “that’s a lot of money, how did she not get caught sooner?”

Chang posted the $1.5 million bail for the federal charges on Monday. If convicted on the federal charges concerning student labor alone Chang would face up to 20 years in prison.

Additional reporting by

Thomas Carnevale