Ithaca Police arrested a Cornell student on Friday morning following a fight in Collegetown that sent another student to the hospital in what may have been a hate crime, Ithaca’s mayor told The Sun.
Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 said police are investigating an incident in which a black Cornell student said he was called the N-word in Collegetown, preceding a physical confrontation that may have left the student with a concussion.
The student, a junior at Cornell, spoke to The Sun on the condition of anonymity from Cayuga Medical Center, where medical personnel were determining if he has a concussion, he said.
The junior told The Sun that he was walking home on Eddy Street in Collegetown around 1 a.m. on Friday when he attempted to break up a fight in the front yard of his residence. The student said he saw several people who do not live at his residence shoving his friends, and he shouted at them to leave the property.
As a group of four or five white men began to leave the driveway area of the student’s residence, the student said, they repeatedly shouted expletives and racial slurs at him.
“They said ‘Fuck you, nigger,’ over and over, as they were leaving,” he said.
When the junior confronted them, “four or five of the guys came up and started punching me in the face repeatedly,” he said.
“I was pretty bloodied up.”
Another student who spoke on the condition of anonymity told The Sun that he was also called a racial slur about an hour after the assault on Friday morning by one of the same students who had assaulted the other student. The assaulted student, a junior, was not present for the verbal exchange.
In a video of the exchange obtained by The Sun, two men can be seen confronting another student who is not shown in the video.
“You might be a sand-nigger black, but you’re not black” one man says in the video, later adding: “Come fight us, nigger.”
One man repeats the first phrase at the end of the video. Myrick said Ithaca Police had reviewed the video.
Ithaca Police Lt. John Joly said in a press release that officers responded to 306 Eddy St. at 1:38 a.m. on Friday and took several statements.
Ithaca Police arrested one person and charged that person with one count of assault in the third degree, a misdemeanor. Police did not identify the arrested student.
“There were no significant injuries reported as a result of this incident,” Joly said in the release, adding that the department is investigating all aspects of the complaint, “including any racially biased motivation.”
A supervisor at the Tompkins County Jail said no one had entered the jail on Friday as of about 6:30 p.m., meaning the arrested student likely posted bail before being processed through the jail.
Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, confirmed the incident in an email to students and said the students involved in the assault may have been members of a “currently unaffiliated fraternity.”
“The university has launched an immediate investigation into the full circumstances of the incident,” Lombardi said.
Black Students United at Cornell University said in a statement that the people shouting the racial slurs were members of the Chi Chapter of Psi Upsilon, which had its recognition revoked by Cornell in May of 2016. The former president of Psi Upsilon, Wolfgang Ballinger ’17, pleaded guilty in February to forcible touching and was sentenced to probation.
“Pending the outcome of the investigation, the students responsible will be sanctioned and the ability of the fraternity to return to campus will no longer be considered,” Lombardi said in the statement.
Lombardi did not identify the unaffiliated fraternity, and a university spokesperson declined to do so.
The Cornell Interfraternity Council, in a statement, said, “Now more than ever, we’re committed to be a fighting force against bias and discrimination.”
The junior who said he was attacked told The Sun from the hospital that the incident is “just another reminder” that assaults of this nature occur in the United States.
“I can’t say I’m very surprised, with the political climate in our country and [things] like this happening all around,” he said. “I already know this happens, but it’s just another reminder.”
The student said he had spoken with his family and that they are “worried” about his safety and condition.
Black Students United, in its statement, said that “a young, hopeful black man was robbed of his dignity, safety, and identity” on Friday morning.
“The aftermath of the incident on Friday serves to remind the black population at this school that we are nothing but tokens, paraded around yet never protected,” the organization said.
“What eludes this campus is true equality among students of color and their white counterparts, impeded by superficial conversations about modern racial politics at a predominantly and historically white university,” BSU said.