The University of Hartford is starting a student NAACP chapter in the wake of a disturbing hate crime incident between two students.
Former freshman, 18-year-old Brianna Brochu, is accused of tampering with her black roommate’s possessions, including putting blood on her backpack and moldy clam dip in her lotion, among other allegations.
University of Hartford President Gregory Woodward has been speaking with students in the hopes of coming up with answers.
“The harsh reality is that racism in America is right here on our campus. We are a reflection of the society at large. It is disturbing and inexcusable and is not spoken about nearly enough. We must all speak up, speak out, and be relentless in our pursuit of a more inclusive environment for our students. Acts of racism, bias, or other abusive behaviors will not be tolerated in any way, shape, or form on this campus,” Woodward said in a statement.
The victim, Chennel Rowe, shed some light on the situation in a Facebook Live post that has been seen hundreds of thousands of times.
"While I’ve been here I have been getting sick, not knowing why I’ve been getting sick," Rowe said on the Facebook post.
While some students said the situation could have been addressed sooner, Woodward insists the university acted swiftly by launching an investigation the moment it came to light.
On Wednesday night, more than 400 students, faculty members, administrators, alumni, representatives from the NAACP and community leaders held a student-run multicultural meeting about the incident to allow students and speakers to talk about race on college campuses.
“There is clearly work to be done at our University. That work has already begun,” Woodward said in a statement last Thursday. “Last night, more than 400 students, faculty, administrators, alumni, representatives from the NAACP, and community leaders attended a student-led meeting. They voiced concerns, asked questions, and offered suggestions for steps we can take to address real issues of inclusivity on our campus. One initiative we are immediately putting into place is to begin a student NAACP chapter at UHart. We will continue providing opportunities for students to make their voices heard. I will do whatever is needed to make this campus welcoming to all, including meeting on a regular basis with students to keep this issue at the forefront of our thoughts.”
Woodward said the meeting that hundreds of people attended was the first moment of optimism he’d had “since learning of the heinous incident.”
He said the university community is ready to come together and fight to make a change.
Brochu is no longer a student at the university and she has been charged with breach of peace and criminal mischief. West Hartford police said they also asked the judge to add a charge of intimidation based on bigotry and bias.
Woodward said he has met at length with Rowe and offered whatever support from the university she may need.