Beating raises issue of incident reporting

The beating of a Geneseo student in early September has raised questions among some as to the College's standards for informing the community about violent incidents.

According to Geneseo police, on Sept. 8, two assault suspects were chased on foot and arrested at approximately 3:30 a.m. The two were caught while attempting to flee 80 Orchard St. after beating a Geneseo student unconscious.

Louis Earley, 23, from Avoca, N.Y., and Herbert Wood Jr., 20, from Wayland, N.Y., were charged with assault in the second degree, police said. According to a Sept. 15 article in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, two days before the assault on Orchard Street, the same two men were accused of breaking and entering into a home in Wayland, Steuben County and committing burglary and first-degree rape.

According to the article, "Earley and Wood were arraigned for the separate incidents in Geneseo Village Court last Saturday and in Wayland Village Court on Thursday and were remanded to the Livingston County Jail. Earley is being held without bail and Wood is being held on $10,000 cash bail or $20,000 bond."

The Omega Beta Psi fraternity house was having a closed rush party on the night of the Sept. 8 incident. Earley and Wood, along with three other males and a female entered the party and were subsequently led out by a few of the fraternity members. Senior John Serignese was among the Omega brothers who led the group outside. Later that night, he returned to his Orchard Street apartment with house mate Kunal Lakhlani when Earley and Wood spotted them and quickly approached.

Serignese said that the two immediately began to give him a hard time. "I tried explaining to them that it was a closed party and that I didn't want any trouble when one of them sucker-punched me. I was on the ground and they kept on hitting me; I was unconscious by the time UP got there." University Police's response time was less than a few minutes, he said. Serignese went to Noyes Hospital in Dansville for a broken nose and cracked jaw.

The Geneseo Police Department was not aware of the perpetrator's criminal history until it was brought to their attention by a State Police investigator three days after the arrest. Geneseo Police Chief Eric Osganian commented on the situation, saying, "At first I thought this was just going to be another assault in [the] second degree case, but it turned out that these guys had been canned for previous felonies."

The only students that were made aware of this incident were those present at an InterGreek Council board meeting where Dean of Students Leonard Sancilio discussed the occurrence. "Since the incident was directly related to a Greek organization and the felons were immediately seized and posed no further harm, there was no need to report the incident to the campus," Sancilio said.

Some who heard of the incident feel that students should have been notified, especially in light of the Oct. 1 stabbing on Letchworth Drive, after which all staff and students were notified by e-mail.

"Not being notified separates Greek life from everyone else that goes to school at Geneseo - everyone goes to [frat parties], so those two guys could just as easily beaten up anyone else," said Darrin Barry, a senior.

Megan Lee, a junior, agreed. "I would have definitely appreciated an e-mail or some notification of the incident," she said. "Finding out about what happened on campus on Sunday definitely reminded the students to be conscious of safety especially when living in a little town where crime that severe doesn't normally occur."

Osganian said it is a hard issue. "We've had worse fights before, but I don't know where we're supposed to draw the line on [notifying the campus]," he said. "It's definitely a tough call."

University Police actively maintains an incident log on their Web site that allows the student body to see offenses committed on campus, but the incident was not reported.

"The incident wasn't recorded because University Police merely assisted the Geneseo Police Department and the Livingston County Sheriff's Department in the arrest of the two felons," UP Chief James Stenger said in response. "Assisting in arrest is not considered under criminal activity."

Since Earley and Wood were immediately apprehended and identified with the help of officers from several police departments, the college followed federal protocol in accordance with the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities guidelines, which most colleges adhere to. These guidelines require, according to NAICU, an annual report on crimes and timely reporting of incidents which could be considered a threat to campus community members.

Vice President for Student and Campus Life Dr. Robert Bonfiglio explained why an e-mail similar to the one sent after the Oct. 1 incident wasn't sent to the student body.

"I can see where the e-mail would have been helpful for the assault on Sept. 8, but I found out from the news a few days later just like everyone else about the severity of the felons involved," Bonfiglio said. "We're not trying to make up our own rules, but I like to think that we're doing the best we can - the safety of our students is obviously our No. 1 concern, but people need to let us know what gaps they feel concerned about."

These concerns are annually evaluated by the College's Personal Safety Committee, which serves to review current campus security policies.

Bonfiglio emphasized the importance of contributing ideas to the Committee to ensure the safety of our community, "If people feel left out, they need to make that known to the Public Safety Committee," he said. "Until then, we will continue to follow the federal laws stated in the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act."