How A Roommate Dispute Between Two Pennsylvania Sorority Sisters Wound Up In Federal Court

Normally, college roommates’ fights with each other are a natural and expected part of transitioning to adulthood, and as young adults, they’re expected to work out their differences among themselves. But for two Pennsylvania sorority sisters, the roommates’ dispute has transcended into a legal donnybrook involving college disciplinary authorities, multiple attorneys, and a federal lawsuit.

As The Philadelphia Inquirer reports, the trouble began for Molly Brownstein and Rachel Lader, both sorority sisters at Alpha Sigma Alpha at Penn State University, when the two women agreed to share an apartment in Barcelona as they embarked on a study-abroad tour earlier this year.

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One night in Barcelona, Lader apparently played her music too loud. Later, while the two women were sharing a hotel room in Prague, Lader allegedly brought back a gentleman caller – causing a frightened Brownstein to leave the hotel. And in the final straw, Lader allegedly dumped a bowl of pasta on Brownstein’s bed.

By this point you may be thinking, “Wow, that sounds like minor stuff that the two girls should have worked out themselves.” And you would be correct. But at this point I need to interject two bits of wisdom that my grandmother once taught me: 1) Some people have more money than sense; and 2) There’s this thing called The Golden Rule: Whoever has the gold, makes the rules.

You see, Molly Brownstein’s parents have all kinds of money.

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Marc Brownstein is CEO of an advertising agency, the Brownstein Group. And, wouldn’t you know it, he and Molly’s mom are both Penn State alumni and generous donors to Penn State. You can probably see where this is going.

Rather than leave it to the two young ladies to work out their difference, the Brownstein’s decided that the Penn State disciplinary committee needed to get involved.

In an eight-page memo filed with the Penn State disciplinary committee, entitled “A Mother’s Perspective,” Amy Brownstein painted Rachel Lader as a classic “mean girl” who bullied her daughter so relentlessly that she suffered migraines, colitis, and anxiety.

“Rachel bullied [Molly] to the point where [she] had to leave in the middle of the night in an area where people get stabbed outside [her] building. Whenever [she] think[s] about it, it brings [her] to a full-on terrible place and makes [her] completely depressed.”

Penn State isn’t giving out details on the outcome of the disciplinary hearing, citing student confidentiality. But in a breach-of-contract and defamation lawsuit filed by Rachel Lader’s family in federal court, Lader says that the Brownsteins used their wealth and influence to manipulate a “baseless” disciplinary hearing that left her on academic probation and facing expulsion.

“This willingness of Penn State to acquiesce to the inappropriate and harmful demands of a large money donor shocks the conscience. Similarly, the extent to which Marc A. Brownstein is willing to pervert his power and influence as a large-money Penn State donor for the purpose of intentionally harming Rachel is equally disturbing.”

Lader disputes just about everything Molly accuses her of, saying that she did, in fact, place an empty bowl of pasta on her roommate’s bed – but only as a protest against Molly’s alleged failure to do her share of the cooking. She also denies bringing home a gentleman caller for “extracurricular activities,” and maintains that he was just a friend, who had been locked out of his apartment and slept on the couch.

As of this writing, it looks like, barring a court intervening, the two women are going to have to live together in a house this school year, even though they’re battling it out in the courtroom. So tight is the housing market around Penn State University that students generally must work out their housing arrangements as much as a year in advance, and the two women have already signed a lease. And the fall term at Penn State is scheduled to begin on Monday.

Do you believe either of the two Penn State sorority sisters in this dispute have a case?

[Image via Shutterstock/Everett Collection]