One week after Ithaca College student Anthony Nazaire was fatally stabbed on Cornell’s campus, with authorities yet to arrest or publicly name a suspect, the campus community is still struggling to understand how a standard student gathering could lead to Ithaca’s first homicide in five years.
Video footage taken last weekend shows that Nazaire attended an Omega Psi Phi party hosted in Willard Straight Hall in the hours before he was stabbed. His family has said that they believe Nazaire and a friend accidentally bumped into someone while leaving the event, which led to the altercation in which Nazaire was stabbed, although the Ithaca Police Department has so far declined to confirm or deny all such reports.
It remains unclear whether the perpetrator attended the event or whether anything that happened at the event precipitated the stabbing.
Registration and Planning
The fraternity received permission to host the party — their annual orientation week celebration — through a standard event registration process available to all Cornell students and student organizations, according to David Bell, assistant director of Willard Straight Hall and community center programs.
“Willard Straight Hall is the student union at Cornell for all Cornell students, so there is no policy for deciding who gets to host,” Bell said. “It is open to all student organizations.”
Saturday’s party was registered as a dry event, which meant that Omega Psi Phi was responsible for making sure no alcohol was consumed on the premises and for reporting any infractions to WSH staff or Cornell police officers on the scene. The fraternity declined to comment on the specifics of the event, but Bell confirmed that no such reports were made.
As WSH does not have a blanket policy on attendance at authorized events, Omega Psi Phi had impunity to decide whom to invite and admit — including non-Cornell students like Nazaire — according to Bell.
A Successful Event
After their registration form was approved by several key stakeholders — including WSH staff and the Cornell University Police Department — Omega Psi Phi had to pay a standard fee to compensate two late night event managers, who are students hired by WSH to monitor events.
Bell said that it is typical to have two event managers and two CUPD officers present at late-night events, and said he believed that two were present at the Omega Psi Phi event, although CUPD Chief Kathy Zoner confirmed that only one Cornell officer attended last Saturday.
After the party, the event managers checked in with custodial staff, as they always do, and filed their event summary sheet. The sheet described only one incident, according to Bell: two attendees had been smoking on the terrace, believing that it was allowed, were politely asked to stop, and immediately complied.
“In the history of this event, we’ve never had an incident in which building managers had to address the hosts and say there was a problem, and this was no exception,” Bell said. “I got a glowing review.”
The event broke up by about 1:45 a.m. on Sunday, according to IPD. Authorities arrived at the scene to find Nazaire and another, unidentified Ithaca College student stabbed at 1:57 a.m. Nazaire was pronounced dead later that morning.