Former Geneseo student Roric Brown was arrested for alleged harassment of a transgender student in Geneseo on Sept. 26. While initial reports stated that the incident started at the Statesman, according to Village of Geneseo Police Chief Eric Osganian, the incident happened on Court Street near the Highlands Apartments around 3 a.m. Osganian said Brown allegedly made offensive comments to the student.
“[Brown] made comments that he didn't like the victim's sexual/transgender appearance,” Osganian said in an email. “The parties did not know each other. Allegedly, [Brown] then threw his drink on the victim and punched [the victim].”
Following the incident, the student went back to her apartment where she called the Village of Geneseo Police Department. Officers immediately began an investigation.
“We were able to determine it was [Brown] later that morning and located him for an interview on the same day,” Osganian said. “We also shared this information with [the University Police Department], just so they were aware and could take action on the college level, if needed.”
Osganian explained that since the student didn’t legally suffer an injury per Penal Law, the arrest was based on aggravated harassment in the second degree, which is a misdemeanor charge. Brown was also charged with harassment in the second degree for throwing his drink at the student.
“[The District Attorney’s Office] may file additional charges, but I don't know what else those would be since nothing else really applies based on what we know of the incident,” Osganian said. “If the victim had an injury, ‘an impairment of physical condition,’ such as a broken jaw or something like that then we would have added the assault charge.”
Because the altercation involved a transgender student, discussions have emerged among students about the possibility of being charged as a hate crime, but charges of that nature have yet to be pressed.
According to The Genesee Sun, Brown said that the incident was in no way a hate crime, but rather “drunken stupidness and a bar argument,” adding that he has “absolutely nothing against homosexual or transgender people in any way.”
The article further states that, contrary to what Osganian reported, Brown said he knew the student he harassed and began doing so after said student bumped into Brown on the dance floor at The Statesmen.
Director of the Center for Community and Dean of Students Leonard Sancilio confirmed that Brown is no longer a Geneseo student, although he didn’t explain why Brown left the school.
According to national online LGBTQ news source advocate.com, “last year, Brown was charged with arson, resulting in his expulsion from Geneseo.”
Because Brown is no longer a student, Sancilio said that the administration is unable to reprimand Brown for his actions since the Code of Conduct no longer applies to him. According to Sancilio, that doesn’t mean that the school doesn’t take this incident seriously.
Sancilio sent an email to all students and staff on Monday Sept. 29 explaining the situation and noting that college officials are taking measures to ensure the safety of the campus community.
“In this case, University Police is certainly more aware of what happened and are even more vigilant than they already are,” he said. “The student organizations, certainly awareness has been raised with them and they’re very supportive of an inclusive community. I think the key contact groups are all supportive of an inclusive community and combined with our Stand Up campaign the community is looking out for itself.”
In an effort to create an inclusive, supportive community, Sancilio has spoken with the student who suffered the harassment.
“The victim feels very supported by the institution and by our students and by organizations,” he said. “So I think if anything good could come out of it, it’s pulling us together again on who we say we are and what we stand for.”
Senior Bella Rabionvich, President of Pride Alliance, has also seen an outpouring of community support.
“I thought that all the faculty and staff who were notified about it were really helpful and concerned,” she said. “A lot of students and Greek organizations reached out to Pride to support us and the victim. I’ve really appreciated all the concern and support this campus has shown.”
In response to this, Pride and Women’s Action Coalition are hosting an event titled “Trans? Fine by me” on Wednesday, Oct. 8 at 8:30 pm in Newton 202. This will be a forum for students and faculty members to discuss LBGT issues and educate people about the current misconceptions surrounding them.
Brown is due to appear in Geneseo Village court on Oct. 14.