Dear Dr. Stellar,
This letter comes to you by my hands but on behalf of a coalition of University at Albany, Saint Rose University, New York state employees, and other local citizens, taxpayers, and stakeholders for the purpose of officially informing you of our concerns regarding the recent treatment of three female students of UAlbany following their report of being targeted, provoked, and physically assaulted on the night of January 31, 2016. You and much of the country now know these young women by their names; Asha Burwell, Ariele Agudio, and Alexis Briggs.
Since this night, details have emerged to indicate that the three women were inexplicably and unjustly subjected to the following treatment:
(1) Racial profiling and illegal questioning by members of University Police Department,
(2) Targeting for punishment by an undisclosed university panel of student conduct officers,
(3) Unfair and excessive discipline by expulsion by said panel,
(4) Pigeonholing as delinquents upon the decision of this panel, and,
(5) Erroneous criminal charges in the Albany court system.
It strikes us as shoddy, absurd, and all-too reminiscent of an America that belongs in the past that only Asha, Ariele, and Alexis were investigated and summarily disciplined by UAlbany police and administration following what was, by preponderance of the evidence (not simply the partial video footage released), a multi-sided brawl on a largely White and drunk bus, attending a still predominately White university. Even more outrageously, at no time since the University at Albany decided to file CRIMINAL CHARGES on only Asha, Ariele, and Alexis has the university offered any option for mediation between them and their provocateurs, nor expressed concern or medical support for their injuries.
Rather than to aid these students in their learning and progression, the University persisted to arrest their development by both forcing them to face a “Student Conduct Hearing” while knowing that it would place them at undue risk in court for additional University-driven criminal charges, and, expelling them from college despite their prior good standing as students. This entire debacle has been excessive if not criminal on the University’s part.
Noting that the State University of New York (SUNY) system consists of a mere 10.6% Black/African American student body, and a below 50% general undergraduate graduation rate, we ask that you explain why UAlbany would go so far as to expel three promising Black female upper class women en route to the Baccalaureate degree within their 4-year cohort.
Further, as several of the White students known to be involved in this altercation, including Mary Glisson, Bianca Deleon, Gabrielle Camacho and Robert McCarthy, were identified by both police and eye witnesses to have been inebriated and acting obscenely, on what basis of high expectations for student conduct and decorum were none of them disciplined or criminally charged?
Further still, as the nation’s police force is increasingly under watch for abusing their power rather than protecting and serving Americans, and particularly Black Americans, how is it that the University at Albany has chosen not to take precautionary action, via independent investigation or responsive diversity training, for the police officers now known to have targeted and mishandled their investigative power against three UAlbany students? Specifically, officers Benjamin Nagy, Paul Burlingame, and James-McAuliffe-Martel cause us great and grave concern for current and prospective students, faculty and staff of SUNY, particularly those of color.
Most absurd of all is the reality that this case has been moved to Albany grand jury for trial without the University saying a word about it. As the trial ensues, we the people here and elsewhere continue to await a show of balanced and strong leadership from SUNY Albany’s Interim President and Board of Trustees in what some are calling the biggest act of race and gender bias perpetuated by a SUNY system school. We hope that you will steer UAlbany in the right direction and take actions to overshadow what now is a part of SUNY’s unpleasing history for the better. We look forward to your reply and discussion on how you might do this. I in particular remain available for any cause of justice and dignity. Feel free to call (518-442-4728) or, preferably, email me at the address below to get started.
Daphne R. Chandler, Ph.D.