UAlbany Pres. Responds Swiftly to Alleged Race-Related Assaults

By Sheryl Estrada

UPDATE: Feb. 4 at 7:16 a.m. EST: On Wednesday, UAlbany President Robert J. Jones provided an updateon video regarding the events of Jan. 30.

“We really need and want to get this right, for the students involved, for our campus and for the future of our University,” Jonessaid. “Our police are working closely with the office of the District Attorney, David Soares, and he has assured me that this case has his full attention. In the meantime, I ask all of us to not rush to judgment. We need to know all of the facts. We must get this right.”

Original Story

A rally at the State University of New York in Albany on Monday. Photo via Twitter.

A rally at the State University of New York in Albany took place Monday night in support of three Black female students.

The undergraduatesallege 10 to 12 white men and women hurled racial slurs at andassaulted them on a citybus as it arrived on campus around 1 a.m.Saturday.

Following campus protests across the country in 2015, university and college presidents are being held accountable by students to facilitate an inclusive culture on campus, as well as effective responsesto issues of racism.

Related Story: Black Lives Matter Student Protests Around the U.S.

UAlbany President Robert J. Jones was traveling when he heard from university authorities of the alleged assaults. Jones cut his trip short to return to campus.

He issued a statement on Saturday to faculty and staff:

Early this morning, three of our students were harassed and assaulted while riding on a CDTA bus on Western Ave. in Albany.

The students, who are Black women, stated that racial slurs were used by the perpetrators, whom they described as a group of 10 to 12 white males and females.

I am deeply concerned, saddened and angry about this incident. There is no place in the UAlbany community for violence, no place for racial intolerance and no place for gender violence.

I am out of town today. I have decided to cut my trip short and will be returning to Albany as soon as I can to address this situation.

In the meantime, I have been in direct contact with the Provost and executive leadership team and have directed that the University respond rapidly and forcefully.

I call upon all members of the University at Albany to unite. We must show the world that we stand for inclusiveness and stand against bias, violence and hatred.

Our annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration will be held on the evening of Monday, Feb. 1. As we reflect on the principles and values that Dr. King stood for, let us come together in solidarity to reaffirm our values …

Related Story:Luke Visconti, CEO: Crisis in Higher Education a Long Time Coming

Jones is in his third year of presidency at UAlbany. Hepreviously spent 34 years at the University of Minnesota. Jones, who is Black, has a background in advancing international education, including serving as an academic and scientific consultant for Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s South African Education Program for 10 years.

Asha Burwell, one of the alleged victims,took to Twitter on Saturday to explain her ordeal:

The three students contacted the university police when they returned to the dorm on Saturday. One woman said several men kicked her after she fell to the floor. Two with minor scrapes on their faces went to the Albany Medical Center for evaluation.

A security video from the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA)bus is under review, according to a statement from Police Chief J. Frank Wiley of the University at Albany police department:

Initial eyewitness information indicated the incident started on Western Avenue near Madison Avenue.A review of the video from the CDTA bus has established that the encounter began off campus with verbal exchanges and that the physical confrontation took place after the bus had driven onto UAlbany’s Main Campus.

The university police and Albany Police Department are jointly investigating. Of the 34 people of interest in the video, 29 have been identified by police and 16 interviewed, according to authorities. They have also received severalcell phone videos to help determine whether a hate crime occurred.

The Albany Times Union obtained a cell phone video on Tuesday that shows a fight in action. But it does not include the entire incident, from the alleged racial slurs to fisticuffs.

CDTA spokesman John Scherzer is not describing the videos captured by the security cameras on the bus.

“We believe it will play out appropriately,” Scherzersaid.

According to College Scorecard, 12,542 undergraduate students attend the university and are 53 percent white, 14 percent Black, 13 percent Latino, 8 percent Asian and less than 1 percent American Indian.

The city of Albany, thecapital of New York, is 65.7 percent white, 15.9 percent Black, 17.6 percent Latino, 7.3 percent Asian and .6 percent American Indian.


The three UAlbany students during the rally Monday night. Photo via Twitter.

#DefendBlackGirlsUAlbany was created to use on social media during the rally Monday night in which hundreds of students, faculty and members of the Albany community attended. It wassponsored by the National Congress of Black Women.

One of the alleged victimssaid in a video posted on Twitter, “We are Black women, and no amount of hate will change that. We are determined to seek the justice in which we deserve. And we will not give up.”

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