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Sorority Sisters Facing Federal Court After Alleged Roommate Drama

Sorority sisters Molly Brownstein and Rachel Lader will share both a kitchen and a court room after roommate drama between the two escalated and caused Lader to file a lawsuit against the Brownstein family and Penn State, the Philadelphia Inquirer first reported this afternoon.

Lader is claiming in a defamation and breach-of-contract lawsuit that Brownstein’s parents used their position and influence as active donors and members of the Penn State community to incite a disciplinary investigation against Lader that led to her academic probation.

Problems initially arose between the two Alpha Sigma Alpha sisters when they roomed together while studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain. Brownstein and her parents claimed in a memo filed with the university that Lader bullied her throughout the international stay.

“Rachel bullied me to the point where I had to leave in the middle of the night in an area where people get stabbed outside my building,” Brownstein wrote in a memo that Lader included in her lawsuit. “Whenever I think about it, it brings me to a full on terrible place and makes me completely depressed.”

Brownstein and her parents claimed, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, that Lader played music too loud in their Barcelona apartment, brought a male back to a shared hotel room on a trip to Prague — forcing Brownstein to find another place to stay — and dumped a colander full of pasta onto Brownstein’s bed. Brownstein’s mother also claimed in eight-page memo titled “A Mother’s Perspective” and filed with the university that Lader actively attempted to exclude her daughter and even left her behind on a trip to Copenhagen.

“In the sorority, it is generally understood that you do not cross Rachel Lader — better to pretend to be her friend, than be her enemy,” Brownstein’s mother wrote in the memo. “The other girls were frankly scared of Rachel.”

Lader refutes these claims in the lawsuit, arguing that she was the target of an attack to tarnish her academic record, claiming the Brownsteins coordinated using their connections. The university began an investigation in March — while both girls were still in Barcelona — at Mr. and Mrs. Brownstein’s request.

She continued that the allegations caused her to suffer from anxiety, migraines, and colitis that led her to spend five days in the hospital last month. Lader is asking a federal judge to liquidate the disciplinary charges and award damages for defamation and subsequent emotional distress.

“This willingness of Penn State to acquiesce to the inappropriate and harmful demands of a large money donor shocks the conscience,” Maurice Mitts, Lader’s lawyer, wrote in court filings earlier this week. “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 [Lader] is equally disturbing.”

Lader maintains that Brownstein excluded herself from socializing with the other roommates and that the male she brought back to the room in Prague was a friend from high school who was locked out of his own apartment, had no intention of sexiling Brownstein, and slept on the couch during his stay. As for the pasta, Lader admitted she put an empty colander in Brownstein’s bed to suggest she wasn’t contributing her share of the housework, but there weren’t any noodles involved.

“The alleged conduct complained of by Molly Brownstein is without any merit and is nothing more than slander and harassment by [her] and her mother to have me thrown out of school,” Lader wrote to Penn State earlier this year.

To further compound the issue, Brownstein and Lader are planning to live together this fall thanks to Penn State’s apartment market that forces you to solidify your off-campus housing plans almost a year in advance and a lease signed last fall.

According to emails filed in Lader’s lawsuit, Penn State offered to drop the investigation if she agreed to break her lease for this fall, but Lader refused and was soon charged with harassment. Neither girl has broken the lease yet, which with classes starting Monday means they’ll be moving in soon if they haven’t already.

About the Author

Lexi Shimkonis

Lexi is an editor-turned-staff writer who can often be found at either Irving's or the Phyrst (with the chances she'll have her backpack being the same). Lexi is a senior hailing from Spring City, PA (kind of) and studying Civil Engineering. Please email questions and/or pleas for an Instagram caption to [email protected], or for a more intimate bond, follow her on Twitter @lexshimko.

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