More to assault than VP's e-mail suggests, students say

The announcement of a racially-motivated assault on the Geneseo campus over the weekend shocked the community, but some who know the assailant claim the administration's message about the incident was misleading.

According to an e-mail from Vice President for Student and Campus Life Dr. Robert Bonfiglio sent Oct. 1 to all students and staff, during the early morning hours of that day a violent confrontation occurred between a student walking back from a night out and two other students who had heard him making anti-Semitic comments earlier in the evening.

According to the e-mail, two students approached the alleged perpetrator and a confrontation took place on Letchworth Drive that resulted in the student pulling out a Swiss Army pocket knife and stabbing one of the other students. According to University Police, the purported assailant injured himself in the process.

A witness who was trying to treat the alleged attacker's wound quickly notified the police after the confrontation. The alleged attacker was arrested on campus and charged with second degree assault. The defendant was arraigned in the Village of Geneseo Justice Court.

As the investigation is ongoing, names of other witnesses at the scene have not been released.

A second e-mail was sent from Bonfiglio on Tuesday afternoon thanking witnesses who came forward and emphasizing the importance of knowing the truth.

Some students in and out of Jones, the alleged attacker's residence hall, feel that the e-mails unfairly portrayed the situation, in which they largely feel the purported assailant was acting in self-defense.

One of these students, a Geneseo First Response volunteer who did not wish to be identified, who was in the GFR office the morning in question, described some of the events that he had witnessed.

According to the GFR volunteer, before the altercation the group of students who confronted the alleged attacker had followed him from a party in a threatening manner. The purported attacker then took refuge in the GFR office before returning outside where he was again confronted, using his pocketknife only the second time.

The GFR volunteer described the initial interaction with the assailant, before the stabbing occurred, saying, "The [alleged] attacker was waiting in the GFR parking lot outside Wyoming. He wanted to be put in touch with University Police and he was crying and very upset, he couldn't type the number in himself because he was so shaky."

According to the GFR volunteer, the alleged assailant made a phone call to the University Police dispatcher, who was unable to send anyone because the purported assailant didn't know where the group of students who had confronted him were. Apparently discouraged, the alleged assailant left the GFR office. "I had to go inside and finish paperwork from the call," the volunteer said. A short time later the attacker returned to GFR with a cut hand.

A student who lives in Jones, who knows the purported assailant and also asked not to be identified, is among those in the building who feel the student was unfairly portrayed and acted only when he feared for his safety. "He studied a lot and was always doing homework," the student said. "He is not a threat."

In response to the criticism, Bonfiglio said that, "The e-mail represented the facts as we knew them at the time. We felt the community needed to be informed and we can only provide them with the information that we had."

Some students believe that vandalism to the purported attacker's dorm room following the attack was another crucial element in the consideration of the altercation as a whole. It is not known who was involved but according to the student in Jones, "Someone poured blue paint all over the walls, his laptop, and possibly stole his iPod and iHome, among other items."

UP was called for the incident and reports on their web site's incident log that, "After [2 a.m.], a blue substance was dumped onto the bed and computer of a student in Jones Hall." The log does not reference a room or any specific students.

Some students who were not involved appreciated the e-mail notification, but did not feel that the attack in anyway compromised their safety. Anne Toomajian, a junior, noted that, "It doesn't make me feel less safe. It's not good to confront someone who is under the influence."

"The college takes any biased or hate related crime very seriously," said UP Chief James Stenger. "We want to work with the community to solve and address it as well as educate the community on how to prevent and report incidents."

Three bias-related crimes have already been documented this year; two involving anti-homosexual incidents and a third involving an anti-Semitic incident.

The numbers of hate crimes on the Geneseo campus, along with reports of other incidents, are reported in a yearly brochure "Crime and Campus Safety - Your Right to Know" that is updated each year. It can be found in the UP office.

The alleged assailant is currently awaiting a college judicial hearing sometime within the next week.