'Dean of Mean' Accused of Exploiting Students

St. John's University official allegedly made students do chores at her home.

ByKevin Dolak
October 02, 2010, 2:20 PM

Oct. 2, 2010— -- An ex-dean at New York's St. John's University is facing forced labor charges after being accused of exploiting students by having them run her errands and do chores at her home.

Cecilia Chang, 57, the recently fired dean of the Institute of Asian Studies and the vice president for international relations at St. John's, allegedly threatened to withdraw scholarships from students if they did not perform the personal tasks.

A New York judge jailed her on Thursday, and she was released on bail Friday night.

According to allegations in a federal complaint unsealed Thursday, students were forced to make meals at Chang's home, answer her personal e-mails and even deliver cash to her at a casino.

"Chang threatened the students and placed them in fear that if they refused to perform these personal services, they would lose their scholarships and be unable to attend St. John's," said FBI Special Agent Kenneth F. Hosey in an affidavit obtained by CNN.

Most of the students came from overseas and had been awarded scholarships of $5,000 or more per semester, according to the complaint. The scholarships, awarded by Taiwanese-born Chang, stated that the students would work part time for the Asian Studies program.

"We need the scholarship, we don't have any choice," student Ziyan Wang told the New York Daily News on Friday.

"We signed a letter saying if I work for her I would get a scholarship," he added. "I definitely know that [household chores] wasn't work-study. But she's the boss and you couldn't say anything. It was unfair so we complained to each other."

The complaint also said that students were allegedly made to shop for Chang's food, cook her meals, wash her clothes, shovel snow at her seven-bedroom Queens home and drive her son to the airport at 3:00 a.m.

Ron Rubenstein, Chang's attorney, said she is "not a slave-driver" and that students prepared Chang's home for school-related dinners that she was hosting and that the work is similar to other college work-study programs.

"She's shocked. What did she do wrong? She did this for decades, she's been giving out scholarships," Rubenstein told "Good Morning America."

A statement from St John's University said that the allegations are "Shocking and in complete violation of all that this university stands for."

Officials from the university also added that students working under Chang will not lose their scholarships.

This is only the latest in a torrent of accusations against Chang, who was arrested on Sept. 15 on state charges that she embezzled approximately $1 million from the University. The charges, which she has denied, led to her dismissal from St. John's and further investigation into her treatment of students.

Chang allegedly used the funds for Victoria's Secret lingerie, gambling trips, and law school tuition for her son.

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