Two Babson College students accused of racist, homophobic slurs while celebrating Donald Trump’s victory at Wellesley College were cleared of the most grievous allegations against them in a campus police probe that Babson refuses to release, school officials told the lawyer representing one student.
In the letter obtained by the Herald, attorney Jeffrey Robbins — who represents accused Babson student Parker Rand-Ricciardi — tells Babson lawyers he is “gravely concerned” about the way the college has handled its disciplinary probe into the incident, which set off a social media firestorm.
The pair were accused of everything from spitting at Wellesley students to hurling racial epithets in front of a building where black students had gathered on Nov. 9, the day after Trump defeated Wellesley alumna Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. Edward Tomasso, the other accused student, later apologized on Facebook and asked people to stop sending him death threats. The two had not been charged with any crime.
Robbins, a prominent Hillary Clinton supporter and occasional Herald columnist, writes in his Dec. 5 letter that Babson’s dean of community standards, Colleen Ryan, is pursuing charges of disorderly conduct and harassment against Rand-Ricciardi despite public safety probes by Babson and Wellesley not corroborating key allegations against him.
“(Ryan) informed me that the public safety investigations conducted by Babson College and Wellesley College had been completed, that they ‘did not corroborate claims of homophobic comments or racial epithets,’ but that she was not ‘satisfied’ with the investigation and was seeking to re-open it,” Robbins writes.
Robbins, who declined to comment to the Herald, also wrote that Babson lawyers told him the reports “reflected a ‘vast difference between the claims contained in the media and in social media’ and the facts.”
Robbins claims Ryan withdrew a pledge to provide Rand-Ricciardi with the public safety reports, and then scheduled and canceled a disciplinary hearing set for tomorrow.
Babson College declined to release the reports to the Herald, citing student confidentiality.
“As a matter of policy, we do not comment on specific student disciplinary matters. We can tell you that Babson College’s Community Standards policies and procedures are designed to ensure a thorough and fair investigation and due process for all parties involved,” Babson spokesman Michael Chmura said.
Robbins says Ryan reversed her commitment to provide the actual public safety reports compiled by the colleges, and now says Babson will only provide a “summary” of the investigation.
Robbins accuses Babson in the letter of prejudging the students. Shortly after the incident, Babson President Kerry Healey issued a statement calling the two students’ actions “highly offensive, incredibly insensitive, and simply not acceptable,” while a separate dean, Lawrence Ward, said the behavior was experienced by many students as “racially offensive” and “gender-demeaning.
Ward, who Robbins said will decide any appeal of his client’s discipline, banned Rand-Ricciardi from attending classes or appearing on campus.
“Accused students are entitled to have their cases decided on the merits — on the particular facts of the case, set in the proper context — and not according to the application of unfair generalizations or stereotypes or because of social or other pressures to reach a certain result,” Robbins wrote.
He continued, “(Babson) cannot properly punish Parker for celebrating an election, however unwelcome that celebration or how people ‘experienced’ it. We are talking about fundamental First Amendment rights here; a college should be the very last place that indulges, let alone actively promotes, a witch hunt against students for celebrating the election of a President who disappointed groups demanding retribution regard as abhorrent.
“During that discussion, one of you said that you understood my point because you ‘wrote my thesis on the right of Nazis to march in Skokie.’ Respectfully, that is not what we are talking about here, and that such a comparison could be drawn by a Babson official indicates that something is severely out of control at Babson, and elsewhere, when it comes to this matter,” Robbins wrote.
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