Alumnus and former employee speaks on campus ban

Is Matthew Bocchi allowed on campus?

It has been more than a year since Matthew Bocchi, ’13, returned to campus to attend the rededication of Bentley Hall. He is among dozens of donors recognized on a plaque in the building’s entryway, a testament to his financial support. Today, he is not sure if he is even allowed on campus.
Answering what seems like a simple question — can an alumnus visit the alma mater where he worked for seven years — is far from easy. Trying to determine whether Bocchi can return to campus raises questions about how he left it — his resignation, the COVID-19 pandemic and claims of discrimination. To Bocchi himself, the situation resembles a faltering marriage where communication has crumbled to nothing.
“It seems just very weird that they can’t even give me a, ‘yes you’re allowed,’ or ‘no you’re not allowed,’” Bocchi said in a virtual meeting last week.
Considering Bocchi’s past with the college makes the uncertainty even weirder. As a student, he was among the 21 “founding fathers” that revived Allegheny’s chapter of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, more commonly known as FIJI. Bocchi has remained active with the fraternity’s national organization after graduation and currently serves in an advisory role for the region that includes Allegheny.
Bocchi represented Allegheny to donors during his tenure at the college. After graduating in spring 2013, Bocchi was hired in 2014 by the Office of Institutional Advancement, working there until he resigned at the end of March 2021. Bocchi traces his apparent ban to the circumstances of his departure, which he alleges came after mistreatment at the hands of his supervisors regarding a disability accommodation and disputes about how he was representing the college. In legal documents, the college offered a sharply contrasting story, saying that Bocchi never faced disciplinary action and that he left voluntarily — even as the college seems to be enforcing a ban against Bocchi.
Back-channel communications
According to Bocchi, the ban was first articulated on Dec. 9, 2021 by then-Associate Dean of Students for Campus Life Maureen Muckinhaupt, who met with a FIJI brother to tell him that Bocchi was not allowed on campus or to advise the chapter. That member, aware of Bocchi’s allegations regarding his resignation earlier in 2021, then immediately told Bocchi about the conversation.
The FIJI brother, who spoke on condition of anonymity to preserve a future relationship with the college, confirmed Bocchi’s account and noted that the national FIJI organization appointed Bocchi to his advisory position.
“I am not their adviser on Allegheny’s campus,” Bocchi said. “I am over all of the chapters in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and in charge of the graduates and undergraduates. You can’t call the Catholic Church and be like, ‘we don’t like your bishop.’”
Since then, FIJI has maintained contact with Bocchi. Tyler Miller, ’24, current president of Allegheny’s FIJI chapter, wrote in an email to The Campus that, “while the ban has not been an immediately grave hindrance, it has caused a sense of distance in his advisory relationship since we assume he cannot be (on) campus.”
Miller added that current staff at the college did not know if the ban was still in place as recently as last month.
“On Oct. 14, 2022 I had a meeting with the college’s FSL Coordinator, Eric Stolar, and once bringing up that Bocchi would be on campus due to (an) alumni event for the chapter, Eric wasn’t sure if Bocchi was even allowed on our campus,” Miller wrote.
Stolar did not respond to requests for comment.
The ban was confirmed in a spring 2022 phone call between Jack Goodman, ’19, and the Office of Public Safety. Goodman, a FIJI, had known Bocchi through the fraternity. He also became the youngest member of the “Timothy Alden Council” in fall 2019 after meeting Bocchi, then a major gift officer with the Office of Institutional Advancement. The story earned a two-page spread in the Winter/Spring 2021 edition of Allegheny’s alumni magazine.
Goodman said the two maintained their friendship, and when Goodman was invited to a special campus reception in May of 2022, he added Bocchi as a guest. This prompted an unexpected phone call from Director of Public Safety James Basinger.

“(Basinger) said that Matt can’t come, he’s been banned from campus,” Goodman recounted in a phone interview last week. “I said, ‘oh, OK, I’m sorry, I didn’t know that, and Matt didn’t know that.’ He told me that he had been trying to reach Matt but wasn’t successful.”
Goodman added that Basinger did not give a reason for Bocchi to be banned.
“(Basinger) wouldn’t even tell me why, which, I don’t know if he’d even tell Matt why if it wasn’t a normal situation,” Goodman said.“(Basinger) said that he didn’t even know, and I don’t know if that’s how it normally works.”
Alleged inconsistencies
Despite these communications to FIJIs and Goodman, Bocchi said he himself has received no formal notification from the college of being banned from campus.
“My attorneys did reach out to them after I heard this,” Bocchi said, referring to Goodman’s May 2022 conversation, “and they also received no response back.”
Bocchi noted that this experience — being told through back channels that he could not come on campus and that he could not advise his fraternity — was inconsistent with past applications of college policy with which he was familiar. He pointed to another alumnus who was banned after an incident during Reunion Weekend in 2016. That alumnus, he said, received a formal letter informing him that he could not return to campus but was allowed to continue advising his fraternity.
The Office of Public Safety declined to comment on the ban against Bocchi returning to campus and referred The Campus to the college’s Office of Marketing and Communications.
The Campus reached out to senior administrators, including President Ron Cole, ’87, for comment. Vice President for Enrollment Management Ellen Johnson, who oversees the college’s Office of Marketing and Communications, provided a statement on behalf of the college stating that the college was legally permitted to regulate who was allowed on campus, though Johnson did not specify if Bocchi was allowed on campus or not.
“Allegheny College, as a private institution, has broad rights in terms of restricting access to its campus and/or to events held in-person or virtually,” Johnson wrote in part. “Each situation is evaluated individually by Public Safety.”
The initial charge
The cracks in Bocchi’s connection to the college began a year before he first heard of a ban, when he was still working in the Office of Institutional Advancement.
Bocchi supported his recollections of his final months as an employee with more than 100 pages of documents, including emails, internal records from Institutional Advancement and transcripts of conversations between Bocchi and his superiors.
In January 2021, Bocchi expressed concern about a push to return to the office and in-person conversations with donors. When the pandemic arrived in March 2020, Bocchi, who has type-1 diabetes and is immunocompromised, had obtained a “reasonable accommodation” from the college to work from home pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Bocchi said he felt pressured to “get back on the road,” by his supervisor, and filed a complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC is the agency responsible for enforcing federal anti-discrimination regulations in the workplace. Employees can file a charge of discrimination against their employer if they believe they have been unfairly targeted because of a personal attribute including race, sex, sexual orientation and disability status.
Bocchi is not the only Allegheny employee to file with the EEOC in recent years. In March 2022, former Associate Professor of Chinese Xiaoling Shi filed a charge relating to her firing at the end of the 2021-22 academic year. That charge is still currently being processed by the EEOC.
As he waited for a response from the EEOC, Bocchi said, he was also concerned by what he saw as a disregard for COVID-19 protocols within the Tippie Alumni Center.
At the time, Institutional Advancement shared Tippie with administrators displaced by the renovation of Bentley Hall. Bocchi said that administrators — including then-President Hilary Link and her staff — did not wear masks during trips to the copy room or down the hall, and did not keep their office doors closed.
In a July 8, 2020, message to the college community, Link wrote, “face coverings must be worn at all times in any shared workspace (shared office spaces, copier stations, etc.) and when moving through buildings or across campus.”
That regulation was reiterated by the Allegheny College Health Agency as the college prepared for spring 2021 move-in.
Bocchi’s unease grew when he learned of an Institutional Advancement staff member cutting short the recommended 14-day quarantine after a fundraising trip to Indiana in October 2021, citing internal documents that showed the same employee traveling again seven days later.
At the time, the Pennsylvania Department of Health recommended a 14-day quarantine at home after traveling to Indiana, while ACHA required students to quarantine in their room for the same period.
“As someone with an autoimmune disorder,” he recalled reporting to the college’s Human Resources office at the time, “I very much don’t want to be there,’” Bocchi said.
The vaccine selfie
Bocchi’s concerns came to a head in the final days of January 2021, as the college began discreetly vaccinating its staff in partnership with the Meadville Medical Center. According to the Meadville Tribune, ACHA told Allegheny staff in an email, “We strongly ask that you understand the need for discretion, including not posting to social media or publicizing in any way.”
When the Tribune followed up with the college about the situation, Vice President for College Relations Susan Salton wrote that the request was an attempt to be “respectful” of the local community.
“Knowing this, but also knowing that I had been told there were legitimate questions about my disease, I posted on Instagram a selfie of me in the vaccine place,” Bocchi said. “No way mentioned the college, didn’t say I got to hop the line.”
In the image, Bocchi is wearing a yellow mask adorned with green alligators, though he did not tag the location, the college or any current employees. “Freshly vaccinated,” Bocchi captioned the post. “PSA 40% of all USA COVID deaths are diabetics. For the love of god, get the shot.”
Bocchi met with two senior staff members via videoconference 10 days after posting the photo. The Campus obtained a transcript of the conversation, which Bocchi said was captured by a smart home device. According to the transcript, Bocchi was told the timing of the selfie, “did not sit well with a lot of people, quite frankly including the president.”
Bocchi felt a personal social media account was being treated as a professional account. Recalling his 2015 efforts to pass an anti-discrimination law passed in Meadville, he wondered if the college would limit posts that might upset the local community.
According to the transcript, Vice President for Institutional Advancement Matthew Stinson responded to these concerns by saying that he had higher expectations from the staff in his office.
For Bocchi, the criticism felt like a lack of support. As an out gay man in Meadville, he said, it made him uncomfortable and undermined his faith in the college.
“Administrative Bloat”
Later that month, Link began rolling out a new administrative plan for the college, and Bocchi shared an article from The Campus describing the plan with at least one donor to explain some of the changes. When Bocchi spoke with donors in early March 2021, two said they were concerned with the direction the college was taking, with one donor calling the plan “administrative bloat” and another saying the plan was a “yellow flag.”
When Institutional Advancement leaders saw the report, Bocchi was told not to contact any alumni until he met with his supervisors.
The report led Bocchi’s supervisors within Institutional Advancement to tell him not to contact any additional alumni. In a meeting the next day, the supervisors voiced concerns that Bocchi was portraying the college in a negative light to donors.
Chris Shipley, ’84, was one of the donors that Bocchi said provided feedback on the administrative plan. Shipley wrote in an email to The Campus that in her experience, Bocchi had always been a positive representative of the college.
“(Bocchi) was always cordial, professional, and a champion for Allegheny,” Shipley wrote. “He was always open to questions, feedback and critique, and I’m sure I gave him my candid opinion from time to time. I expected and trusted that my feedback would be shared with others in the Alumni office, but I have no knowledge of what he reported or how it was received.”
By the middle of March, Bocchi said, he was prohibited from contacting donors and was worried about losing his job if he did.
“I was like, ‘Well that’s terrifying,’ because again, we’re in the middle of a pandemic and I get health insurance from my job and I have a chronic illness,” Bocchi said.
The EEOC complaint
Eventually, Bocchi scored another job offer and formally resigned on March 26, 2021, with his benefits running until April 30. In the first week of April, Bocchi got a phone call back from the EEOC, and the agency re-filed Bocchi’s charge with the incidents Bocchi alleged occurred after his initial filing in January. Bocchi agreed to arbitration between himself and the college, moderated by the EEOC.
Bocchi provided a copy of the college’s 17-page response, filed July 16, 2021 to The Campus. The response stated that the college had done nothing wrong and that Bocchi had voluntarily left.
“Bocchi was not constructively discharged, as he purports, given that his circumstances were not so intolerable that any reasonable person in his position would be compelled to resign,” the college’s response reads in part. “Indeed, Mr. Bocchi was being provided the very thing that he claims to have wanted – a remote work arrangement – and at no time did he face any adverse action – not even a single disciplinary action – prior to his resignation.”
Constructive discharge” is the term for a scenario in which an employee quits their job due to working conditions that no reasonable person would stay in, according to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute.
After the statement was filed, the matter went to the EEOC to investigate and arbitrate, though Bocchi said the agency did not bring the two sides to a mediation within 90 days. When that time period elapsed, Bocchi obtained permission from the EEOC to file his own lawsuit against the college.
“(The right-to-sue) means they aren’t saying anybody’s right or wrong, they’re saying, ‘we don’t have the time to investigate it, so go to the courts,’” Bocchi said.
Ultimately, Bocchi decided not to sue the college.
“I’ve worked through it, it’s like a marriage dissolving,” Bocchi said. “(FIJIs) are like the product of a marriage; the marriage is broken, I don’t want to talk to Allegheny, Allegheny doesn’t want to talk to me, but we’re in it for the kids … Even if we got money, it’d be so miniscule, and I don’t care, because it’s clear that they don’t care.”
Bocchi saw what he took as an indication of this lack of care on Nov. 16, 2021, when Link fielded questions from students at an open meeting of the Allegheny Student Government. One question, posed by an anonymous FIJI, asked, “Why has VP Stinson not been investigated for his discriminatory behavior towards LGBT and disabled employees?”
In response, Link laughed, adjusted her seat, and said, “I’m not going to comment on that. There’s nothing to investigate.”
“Her reaction — that kind of cements everything I said, like, she doesn’t care,” Bocchi said.
Going public
Twenty-three days after the General Assembly — Dec. 9 — the ban against Bocchi was first articulated to a member of FIJI. In May, Jonathan Goodman learned of the ban from Public Safety and Tyler Miller said the issue came up again in October.
On Oct. 11, 2022, Bocchi publicly acknowledged the situation for the first time, commenting on a post made earlier that day by the college’s admissions team on the Instagram account @gotoallegheny. The post celebrated the fact that the college had scored 4.5 out of 5 on the “Campus Pride Index,” and Bocchi wrote, “Interesting. Would love to talk to others about being told that my existence as an LGBTQ employee was not how the college, ‘chooses to be represented.’”
“It felt like a slap in the face,” Bocchi said. “That comment happened because it felt like somebody saying, ‘our hotel is so disability-friendly,’ and in reality there’s dim lights and there’s no elevator. You can’t tell me you’re super accessible and so wonderful and then not be.”
Though he decided not to pursue a lawsuit, Bocchi said he is now speaking publicly in the hopes that the college can address his concerns about the circumstances that led to his resignation.
“I hope that there’s some accountability and some justice, and I have a lot of faith in Allegheny,” Bocchi said, citing new leadership as a cause for optimism. “I worked with Ron as an undergrad and as an employee, and he was wonderful. I really feel like the soul of Allegheny has been in danger, and hopefully is on the right track.”
Stinson declined to comment, citing legal reasons. Former Senior Director of Institutional Advancement Tiffany Cipollone, who now works at Muskingum University in Ohio, did not respond to a request for comment.
The college also declined to comment.
“The College does not discuss confidential personnel matters for current or former employees,” Johnson wrote in the statement.
The dissolution of any marriage leaves unanswered questions and competing narratives. Bocchi’s version raises significant concerns about how the college’s employees fared during the pandemic. The college counters that an employee left of his own accord like countless other voluntary departures that regularly occur.
And yet, the question remains: Is Matthew Bocchi allowed on campus?