Students sat down face-to-face with University of Hartford’s president Gregory Woodward throughout the day. Several students described the hours of meetings as productive.
"We all felt included and we all felt able to speak our minds and pick each other’s brains and just talk about what happened,” Freshman Eddie Cruz said.
Cruz told FOX61 he stressed to the school’s president how seriously students are taking this.
He said, “There cannot be sweeping this under the rug, there cannot be any acceptance for this level of hatred or bigotry.”
Thursday’s meetings came just one day after students gathered in a packed room to voice their opinions to schools leaders and public safety staff on the matter.
“It’s so sad to think that something is happening because this is such a wonderful campus and I love it here so much and it’s just really sad to hear,” fellow freshman, Eliana Tirone, said.
Students’ concerns stemmed from the recent arrest of University freshman Brianna Brochu. She’s been charged with criminal mischief, breach of peace, and intimidation based on bigotry or bias, which is considered a hate crime charge though no formal hate crime charge has been put forth by the department.
West Hartford police began their investigation into Brochu after being called to the University on October 17th. That’s when the University said they were alerted to social media posts in which Brochu allegedly boasted about disturbing acts against her roommate Chennel Rowe.
The social media posts all came to light as Rowe was packing up and moving out of her dorm room for what she claimed was a hostile relationship between she and Brochu. Prior to that night, however, she was not aware of the actions Brochu was reportedly taking against her.
According to the arrest warrant, Brochu posted the following on her Instagram account:
“Finally did it yo girl got rid of her roommate!! After 1 ½ months of spitting in her coconut oil, putting moldy clam dip in her lotions, rubbing used tampons on her backpack, putting her toothbrush places where the sun doesn’t shine, and so much more I can finally say goodbye Jamaican Barbie.”
Police said during their interview of Brochu she admitted to licking Rowe’s plate, fork and spoon, putting tampon blood on Rowe’s backpack, and mixing Rowe’s lotions with other lotions also on Rowe’s desk, but “denies anything further.” The warrant also said Brochu claimed anything else she “bragged about over social media was a lie in an attempt to appear funny.”
Woodward told FOX61 there are now many ideas being brought to the table on how to better educate students on cultural sensitivity and racial identity. He said all future hatred may not be prevented, but he and administrators are willing to try.
“Clearly we’ve got work to do as I said, but look it, are we alone in this? Everyone’s got this work to do, right? Hatred is kind of fashionable at the moment which is really unfortunate. So, let’s come out of this stronger on the other side. Let’s put into place not just a lot of talk, but actual things, right? Classes, seminars,” Woodward said.
Woodward also stressed the University involved police as soon as the allegations of the crimes were brought to their attention.
President Woodward addressed the UHart community:
Nov. 2, 2017
Dear University of Hartford Alumni,
A student at the University of Hartford was recently the victim of some reprehensible acts by another student. This has been deeply upsetting to me and to the entire University of Hartford community. While the University is limited in our ability to legally answer many of the questions raised, we are working diligently to provide details and action steps surrounding this situation.
The individual responsible is no longer a student at the University and has been arrested by the West Hartford Police Department. She is facing charges and the case will proceed through the legal process.
There has been an outpouring of concern for the victim of these acts from across the University and the country. In my meeting with her this week, I pledged my personal commitment to make sure she has all available personal and academic resources the University can provide. I am confident that the student body, the administration, and everyone here at the University will continue to support and show kindness to this member of our community.
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.
There is clearly work to be done at our University. That work has already begun. 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.
Last night was the first moment of optimism I have experienced since learning of the heinous incident. It showed that our community is ready to come together, put in the hard work, and fight to make change. I am all in for that fight—and I simply can’t accomplish it without help from every segment of our UHart community. A number of alumni have reached out this past week to offer their thoughts and their talents. Regardless of whether you are a recent graduate or attended here many years ago, we not only welcome—we need—your help and ideas. Together, we can lead by example. Please email email@example.com.
I think our current student government president, Bryson Owens ‘18, echoed the sentiment of so many in the UHart community when he wrote his fellow students this week, “What inspires me about the campus community's reaction is the sight of human compassion, love, and support for a fellow student. This has proven to me that no matter how much negativity we may face, and believe me that there will be an abundance of negativity, there's always love to help us overcome and continue to fight for justice and liberty for all.”
The conversations this week are just a starting point. I will share additional information in the weeks to come about opportunities for our path forward in meaningful dialogue and action.