Cornell is investigating Psi Upsilon following the arrest of a student for assault, but the fraternity says its members were not involved.

Jason Ben Nathan / Sun Senior Photographer

Cornell is investigating Psi Upsilon following the arrest of a student for assault, but the fraternity says its members were not involved.

September 18, 2017

Psi Upsilon Says Its Members Were Not Involved in Collegetown Assault

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Two days after a black Cornell student said he was punched in the head by a group of white men who called him racist slurs in Collegetown, President Martha Pollack said the University would not allow the Psi Upsilon fraternity to return to campus, pending an investigation.

“Based on what we know, and pending final investigation, Cornell will not consider Psi Upsilon’s reinstatement as an affiliated fraternity,” Pollack said in a message to the campus.

At least four student groups said in separate statements that members of Psi Upsilon, which had its recognition revoked in 2016, were responsible for the assault, although that has not been confirmed. On Saturday, “You Rasist Fucks [sic]” was seen in paint on the Psi Upsilon’s uninhabited former house.

Thomas Fox, executive director of the Psi Upsilon Fraternity, said in messages to Black Students United that he plans to investigate the matter to ensure that no one who took part in the assault “has any association with our fraternity at any time in the future.”

Ithaca Police arrested one Cornell student and charged the student with misdemeanor assault, Lt. John Joly and Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, said.

In an unsigned statement to The Sun late on Sunday, The Alumni of the Chi of Psi Upsilon at Cornell said it condemns the assault on Friday, adding that the “student involved in the incident on 9/15 is not and has never been a member of the Chi of Psi Upsilon.”

The association added that it is “confident” the arrested student “was not a member of Psi Upsilon prior to the fraternity’s status being revoked.”

The alumni association said that Psi Upsilon at Cornell, this semester, submitted a list of students to the University who were seeking to re-establish the chapter and that the arrested student “was not one of those students on our list.”

“We were deeply sorry to learn of the events of September 15, and our thoughts remain with those targeted,” the group said. “Our organization has zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind, and we condemn the actions that took place in the strongest possible terms.”

The black student, a junior at Cornell, told The Sun that a group of four or five white men repeatedly called him the N-word and beat him early on Friday morning on Eddy Street. The student said he was “bloodied” and he spoke from a local hospital on Friday evening. Police said they are investigating whether there was “any racially biased motivation.”

The University has not explicitly said Psi Upsilon or its members were responsible for the assault, but the singling out of the fraternity in Pollack’s statement raises questions about whether the fraternity was operating underground and what Cornell’s investigation will entail.

Pollack said she also is directing the presidents of the Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils to “develop a substantive and meaningful diversity training and education program for all their members” that will be implemented before spring recruitment.

No one answered the door on Saturday or Sunday afternoon at a residence on Eddy Street where the fight reportedly occurred, and which several students said serves as Psi Upsilon’s unofficial annex.

Cornell revoked its recognition of Psi Upsilon in May 2016, when the fraternity allegedly hosted a party in violation of the interim suspension. The suspension was also due to 31 judicial complaints against the fraternity at the time, Cornell said. In a separate incident, their former president, Wolfgang Ballinger ’17, pleaded guilty to forcible touching in February and was sentenced to probation in April of this year.

The former Psi Upsilon house at 2 Forest Lane was vacated after Cornell revoked the fraternity’s official status. The building is currently being renovated and has no inhabitants. The spray paint was covered with a wooden board at around 4 p.m. on Saturday, but shortly after, the graffiti was visible again.

Josh Girsky ’19 contributed reporting to this article.

  • Mike-T

    The question has come up a thousand times lately, at Cornell and Penn State and LSU and UVA… at what point does the University’s association/enabling/consent/pandering to the Greek system outweigh the constant stream of negative national press you receive? If one were to look at how the Cornell Greek System has made national news over the last period of time, it is so undignified, directly against the idea “all are welcome” — why would any business or education expert want to be anywhere near that reputation? Haven’t they outlived their usefulness? Can’t you take the high road by getting rid of something that only seems to land your collective rap sheet in the national press? You have a business school, a great one, what would they recommend? Just coming up with another task force or study or issue a report or suggest more counseling? If Cornell were my business, I’d look at the Greek system for what it is and make a numbers move based on the future dignity and viability of my organization. Think to yourself, what is the likelihood a fraternity makes national news for you in X months, X years etc. based on something positive? Now, what is the likelihood you end up on CNN and in the NYT for other reasons? What’s the bottom line? Be smart, Cornellians.

    • bigredalumnus

      Are you familiar with innocent until proven guilty and guilt by association? Let’s await a fair investigation before a) attributing this to Psi U and b) holding the entire 3000-member fraternity system responsible.

      By the way, fraternity alumni every day do terrific, often anonymous things that bring credit to Cornell. Many cite their fraternity experience as formative. Many will say their fraternity relationships are the best friendships they’re ever made, and the only thing that gets them on campus.

      • Mike-T

        Perhaps you have examples of all those terrific things making the pages of the major national papers. Or the national news reports. From the outside looking in, it seems your fraternity system hits the wires every few months for things like this or for sexual assault. That’s becoming your brand now, like it or not.

        • desertCard

          I’m assuming you live in this world. Do you watch the news? 9/10 stories are rape, murder, mayhem, riots, terrorism, fires, tornados, car wrecks, hurricanes… Our media leads and ends with gloom and doom, puts it in the middle then puts one cute puppy dog tale in and calls it journalism. We live in a reality tv world where everyone wants to see this, I can only assume, to make themselves and their lives seem better. So what do you think gets more airtime? The hundreds of millions of $$$ donated by, the building financed by or the scholarships financed by frat/sorority members? Or that one kid got punched in the face and called a bad name?

    • Jay Wind

      Look at the statistics. 1) Fraternities and Sororities have a more diverse membership than do the MGLC, Ujamaa, and the Latino Living Center. 2) The Cornell Greek System is self-supporting and not funded by Cornell. 3) Greek alumni are among the most generous in supporting Cornell. For example, when President Perkins wanted to bring more minority students to Cornell and needed $1 million to fund financial aid for the COSEP program, Bob Purcell, a Psi U brother, stepped up and donated the funds to launch that program. Fisk Johnson a Chi Psi brother just gave $150 million to the new business school. Charles Fenney, a Phi Kappa Psi brother gave $100 million for the new Cornell Tech campus and countless more to the Ithaca campus. Those gifts reflect stong bonds to Cornell that were forged in fraternities.

      • Ash

        Do share the statistics you site. Thank you.

      • Mike-T

        While nice gifts, it’s a hell of a stretch to give the Greek system credit for individuals giving to the school. And what is it you think that money is buying? In fairness, should we not then list the individual histories of each of those chapters when it comes to sexual assault? To drunk and disorderly behavior? To elitist behavior that spawns what just happened?

        • desertCard

          So fraternities/sororities get to own the bad news but not the possible influences it nurtured to instil that type of philanthropy in their brothers and sisters? You’ve obviously watched Animal House too many times.

    • Map4Territory

      Could you clarify how Cornell’s ” association/enabling/consent/pandering to the Greek system” contributed to this incident? What did the university do or fail to do that enabled the perpetrators to commit this act whereas non-affiliated students would have been unable? Considering they had already been kicked off campus, it seems unclear to me how Cornell’s association with fraternities contributed to this.

      The idea that fraternities need to be sufficiently useful seems like an insane standard that is applied to literally no other formal or informal organization on campus. Do we need review committees to determine whether The Swing Dance Club is sufficiently useful(although that would actually make more sense considering they receive funding from Cornell). What about informal organizations, do I need to prove a friendship I have is sufficiently useful to Cornell in order to continue it?

      Greek organizations were not founded by schools, they existed outside the system for decades and were persecuted heavily. At some point schools decided that in order to gain more control over them they could offer some benefits in exchange for recognition, which enabled them to revoke those (very limited) benefits if they misbehaved. You are advocating for a system in which there are large unrecognized fraternities that operate completely outside of the control of the university. Something which, as this recent event shows, has some very negative outcomes.

      • Mike-T

        I did not say they need to be “sufficiently useful.” Cornell is now forever associated with the negative behavior no matter how you spin it. Just as Penn State will be for the recent death. And UVA despite the Rolling Stone fiasco. And on and on.

        What I said was, roughly, why keep allowing these incidents to keep trashing a leading school’s brand? Over the past 18 months, dozens of major news outlets have linked Cornell fraternity behavior to the worst kinds of behavior. If you ran a business, would you want some of your employees or representatives engaging in that behavior? How would that look for you on CNN? Media is forever. Cornell fraternities are 0-for-the-decade when it comes to helping, not hurting, the brand.

        You’d cut that crap loose. Run a Google search on Cornell fraternity and see what comes back as the top stories for just about every news source that counts. At some point, it becomes a business decision. What would be your business decision? Wait for it to happen again?

        Let’s make a bet. Let’s watch for the next year or two and see what makes major, Cornell brand-affecting news first. The Greek system for a positive, or a fraternity kid for another negative. Is it a bet?

        • Map4Territory

          Is English not your first language or do you struggle intellectually to follow basic argumentation?
          1. Your argument that Cornell needs to do more(or less) in regards to fraternities requires some kind of specifics about what they should do. Even after asking you that directly you seem unable to answer.
          2. You literally questioned fraternity useful in your initial post. It’s kind of a bold strategy to post arbitrary sentences in an argument unrelated to anything that came before or after, but hey you do you.
          3. I specifically suggested that keeping a highly regulated Greek life would create more positive outcomes. You just ignored that one.

          But whatever, let’s keep going with your argument. Of course I won’t accept the bet, news focuses on controversial and negative headlines and is not representative of the state of affairs. I’d rather focus on what is and isn’t right. You should be embarrassed that you ignore that because relying on some positive press argument is the only way you can vocalize your narcissistic hatred of Greek life. I mean seriously, these are clearly people you hate and that’s the best you got? And it can be messed up, but if the death of Mortimer Leggett didn’t irreparably damage Cornell’s reputation, modern fraternity antics probably won’t either. I’m fine with that outcome though, because scapegoating and stereotyping large swaths of people based on the actions of a few isn’t a value we should aspire to.

        • desertCard

          Google about any college in America and then throw in football, basketball after each school and see what your results are. Baylor rape and murder, Duke rape, UNC cheating in classes, Louisville strippers, Youngstown St high school rapist, Penn St pedophile, Indiana murderer, Fla St rape, Boston point shaving, about any school academic fraud, etc etc etc. LOL should we now ban sports on campus because of a few bad apples? which one has a greater impact on the schools perception? 105,000 show up at the Shoe in Columbus every Saturday, how many go the Spring formal at the frat houses? In sports seems more than a few bad ones. Baby with the bathwater no?

  • mma_ko

    Ok if this is indeed true, the the idiot who can’t spell should be given one opportunity to clean the graffiti off or be prosecuted for vandalism. Restore rule of law.

    • big KRIT

      “OK yeah yeah some kid got beaten up and called racial slurs a bunch of times BUT SOMEONE DID GRAFFITI!!”

      you’re KIND of missing the point here, guy

      • mma_ko

        No I’m not. Both are crimes and both should be prosecuted. Are you saying you’ll give the vandal a pass because s/he’s rising up against the ALLEGED residence of the ALLEGED assailant? And now this turned out to be mistaken by the way. Let me repeat myself in case you’re slow … BOTH are wrong and BOTH should be disciplined. You’re the one who’s missing the point! Rule of law .. look it up.

        • Dwaboutit

          not mistaken ; asshole turned out to be in psi u and the frat lied

        • big KRIT

          so you’re saying a violent hate crime with a minor defacing of property are equivalent in nature?

          sorry dude, not sure what planet you’re from but people > property.

      • mma_ko

        Btw, how did this idiot even get into Cornell? Can’t even spelll correctly?

        • desertCard

          Probably not a Cornell student.

  • Daphne McDuffie

    Please watch “Frontline: Racism 101” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPPsB7doRt0) a 1988 documentary that delves into racism at some of this countries most “elite” universities: the University of Michigan, Dartmouth, University of Massachusetts.

    The white students are proudly sharing their racist views. Many of these college students from 1988 are now heads of companies, professors, and yes, they are parents. Are we surprised that this generation continues to perpetuate the hate that they learn from their racist and bigoted parents?

    • desertCard

      If you delve hard enough you can find such people in any organization, institution, university, high school, scout troop, etc etc. ON the other hand you can also find a majority of those who are 180* opposite. I love Frontliine but do you not think they were LOOKING for someone to espouse these views to prove their reporting? To say this generation is more racist than past, present or future would seem naive. To say Dartmouth (where my son attends), Mich or UMass are racist institutions is silly.

      • Daphne McDuffie

        With all due respect, maybe you need to re-read my comment. I wrote that “the white students are proudly sharing their racists views” in the Frontline documentary. This is a fact. I never implied that the entire community at Dartmouth, UMass and the University of Michigan share these racist views. Also, I never wrote that this generation is more racist. I wrote that this generation “continues to perpetuate the hate that they learn…” You are “naive” and “silly” not to recognize that racism is alive and well in America.

        • desertCard

          I am quite aware that racism exist in the USA. But if you saw more of the world you’d realize we’re probably less racist than other countries. I presently live in a Gulf country where the workers hired to do the manual labor here have their passports taken so they can’t run away, work and live 20 to a room in sweltering heat, aren’t allowed to see their families for at least 2 years, and all that good fortune for $5/day. And generally treated as dogs. So because some loudmouth white kid in a video espouses some ignorant statement that the journalist is actively searching for or some drunk kid punches someone in the mouth and calls him a bad name because he interfered with their altercation… I try to put it all in perspective. Not every southerner, myself included, is a cracker racist deplorable inbred and not every altercation with a black man/woman is a racist state of emergency. Slavery IS alive and well, just not necessarily in the USA. And for the record I’m not married to an African American. I’m married to a African.

          • Daphne McDuffie

            (1) I would never imply that all white people are “cracker racists”. (2) It appears you completely missed my point: racism and hate are learned behaviors, often passed down from generation to generation. (3) We can’t continue to give the drunk or “loudmouth white kid” a pass to spread hate. (4) You have no idea how much of the world I’ve seen.

          • desertCard

            1) I’m tired of the implied stereotype of my part of the country
            2)Not necessarily
            3)”Kids” make mistakes, that’s part of life but should be dealt with appropriately. Declaring a “state of emergency” is not dealing appropriately. I guarantee you there’s more racism coming the other way. I’ve never called a black the n word, my wife is from africa,..but yet I’ve had a gun held to my head as a “same age as these kids” black man robbed me. I’ve been baited by much worse than I’ve ever heard a white say the other way. The anti racism needs to look beyond “whitey”.
            4)I guarantee you not as much as me.

          • Daphne McDuffie

            1) I agree, the stereotypes some people hold against white southerners are ridiculous and unfair.
            2) Ok.
            3a) Yes, these are young adults who should be dealt with appropriately; there is a middle ground between “declaring a state of emergency” and ignoring inappropriate behavior.
            3b) I’m African American, Mexican and Scottish; I attended a multi-cultural, parochial high school and never dealt with overt racism until college, and it was painful.
            3c) I’ve been stopped several times in front of my suburban-Detroit home by white police officers who didn’t think “black people lived in the neighborhood”. (I know this does not compare to being robbed at gunpoint, but in no way do I believe all white cops are racist and I’m sure you don’t believe all young black men are thugs.)
            4) I’ll take your word for it!

    • roccolore

      Today, it’s the black and Hispanic students who are proud racists and yet the school bends over backwards for them.

  • Ryan Sherman

    The phrase “reinstatement as an affiliated fraternity” gave me pause.

    How does this affiliation process work in the first place? What’s involved? What’s in it for CU?

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  • roccolore

    Racist blacks likely faking the hate like always.

  • glucose

    Frankly, the location of Psi Upsilon @ 2 Forest Park is perfect for the University if it can maintain
    the block on the fraternity. How “convenient” that this frat(out of all of them at
    Cornell) is right next to University infrastructure. Maybe they got in the way of Cornell’s
    expansion, and paid the price. Whip up a few accusations, false or true, put
    the frat down, kick them out, and the University gets a great deal on
    that very useful real estate. Like having a repository of various real estates, waiting to
    be picked and used whenever you need them.

    If I were fraternities at -any- University, I would want to ensure that the frat house/facilities
    were -well away- from core campus. Phi Kappa Psi and Delta Tau Delta are probably
    next on the menu.

    Little fishies gonna get gobbled up by the big bad sharky when it gets hungry.