October 24, 2000

CUPD Release on Sex Assault Draws Criticism

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The Cornell University Police Department (CUPD) released a statement yesterday that it is continuing to investigate the Sept. 16 sexual assault against an Asian female student, along with two other incidents of harassment that were reported in late September.

“We are following up on all the information we have on the assault, which is a bias crime, and the two bias-related incidents,” said William Boice, director of CUPD, in the report.

The statement comes in response to a request by various student organizations at a forum on campus safety and bias prevention last Thursday, in which they asked CUPD to issue an update on the investigation within five days of the event.

Yesterday’s statement detailed that two weeks after the female Asian student was sexually assaulted near Goldwin Smith Hall, a Cornell police patrol stopped a small white car matching the description of the vehicle that the victim had originally provided to CUPD. Cornell investigators obtained police photographs of the three young white males occupying the car, who were not from the Ithaca area. But the sexual assault victim was unable to identify the men in the photographs as those involved in the reported attack.

Another victim of a bias-related incident, an Asian female who was stared at by men driving slowly in a white car while she was walking alone on Jessup Road during the week of Sept. 18, was also not able to identify the men from the photographs as the harassers.

A third incident occurred on Sept. 22, when four Asian alumnae that were driving onto campus were verbally harassed by young white men in a small white car at the intersection of Central Avenue and Campus Road, as The Sun first reported last month.

At least one of the students that requested the update of the investigation was dissatisfied with yesterday’s statement.

“I’m actually very disappointed,” said Melissa Hu ’02, co-president of Asian Pacific Americans for Action (APAA).

Hu explained that APAA co-president Lisa Wang ’02, who served on last week’s panel alongside administrators, faculty members, staff, and police, had requested that the police release a profile of the alleged perpetrators, and a more complete update of what the investigation has consisted of so far.

“What’s the point of releasing this now, if all it included is a description of the car?” she said. “I have a sense that they’re still withholding information. This has been really frustrating. I really expected more from this report.”

According to yesterday’s statement, all three incidents were reported to CUPD several days after they took place. Boice highlighted the necessity of reporting incidents of assault and harassment immediately to the police.

“It’s crucial that victims get immediate support,” he said. “Timely reporting also helps our investigation.”

In response to the September incidents, CUPD has increased weekend patrols, Boice said, and University officials are reviewing requests by student groups to increase lighting in some areas on campus and extend blue light bus service, the report said.

The requests, in a proposal that was drafted and supported by numerous campus organizations, also include full implementation of hate crimes policies, and prompt dissemination of information on bias-related incidents through mass media. In addition, the proposal states the groups’ mission and asks for programming in student life, as well as a required course in ethnic and women’s studies.

Hu said that student organizations will meet today to refine specific points in the proposal. Tomorrow, Wang, Hu, and members of La Asociacion Latina and Black Students United, will meet with President Hunter R. Rawlings III and Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services, to discuss the groups’ proposal and to express concerns about what they perceive as a growing trend of violence against minority students on campus, Hu said.

“This is just the beginning of a really long process,” Hu added.

Still the racial nature of the recent bias-related incidents is not the main point of concern for at least one student.

“I don’t necessarily feel that just because they said racist things there’s a problem of racism on this campus,” said Phoebe Lee ’03. “I don’t feel any less safe.”

She added that she perceives the harassment as an isolated incident committed by one party or a series of copycats.

“I would obviously be concerned if they [CUPD] weren’t looking into it,” Lee said. But she made the distinction that it’s “not because I’m Asian-American or because I’m a woman.”

Anyone with information regarding the three bias-related incidents is asked to call CUPD at 255-1111.

Archived article by Heather Schroeder