The lawyer for one of two Babson College students investigated on unsubstantiated racism allegations stemming from their celebration of Donald Trump’s election is demanding an apology and threatening a defamation lawsuit after the school lifted its campus ban on the pair yesterday.
Babson Dean of Students Lawrence Ward informed students Parker Rand-Ricciardi and Edward Tomasso by letter yesterday that the school is “removing any interim restrictions on your access to campus.” The letter cites the “formal conclusion of the investigation phase of the College’s Community Standards process” as the reason for the lifting of a ban imposed shortly after the Nov. 9 incident.
Rand-Ricciardi and Tomasso were accused in social media posts of shouting racial and homophobic slurs while driving in a Chevy Silverado flying a Trump flag through the Wellesley College campus on the day after the election, which were unsupported by Babson’s investigation, according to a letter by Rand-Ricciardi’s lawyer.
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Attorney Jeffrey Robbins wrote to Babson’s lawyers yesterday saying the college’s handling of the incident “badly defamed” his client, and that Babson is “liable to Parker for the tort of defamation and, it would appear, for violations of the Massachusetts Civil Rights statute under the common law, for the intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.”
Robbins is calling for the college to retract statements its officials made impugning the pair, offer a public apology and withdraw internal charges of harassment and disorderly conduct.
Robbins’ letter cites excerpts from Babson and Wellesley campus police reviews that found the pair yelled only “Trump 2016” and “Make America Great Again” from a truck they drove onto the Wellesley campus, but no witnesses corroborated the claims that they spit at two students, uttered slurs or purposefully drove to a building popular with black students.
“Contrary to published news reports and comments made on Facebook, no racial slurs, no homophobic slurs nor any other offensive symbols or flags were reported by anyone,” the Wellesley campus police stated, Robbins reported.
Two days after the episode, Babson President Kerry Healey penned a public apology to Wellesley College, calling the students’ alleged actions “at a minimum, insensitive, unacceptable, and contrary to our core values.”
Healey declined to comment yesterday when reached by the Herald.
“I have not had the chance to review the lawyer’s letter, so I have no comment, and you are reaching me when I am with my family on a weekend,” Healey said.
Robbins wrote, “Parker has been subjected to hate speech, incitement to violence against him and vitriolic communications of every shape and variety in part because of the statements made by Babson officials, from whom he was entitled to expect something better.”
Robbins wrote, “Babson’s conduct has been outrageous, and a bona fide travesty, the more outrageous because it has worked such an abuse on two of its own students, while professing to be all about restraint and fairness.”
Robbins’ letter also denounces plans for a Dec. 16 Honor Board hearing as “Kafka-esque,” noting members had signed a statement accusing Rand-Ricciardi of the alleged misconduct, and the offer to remove those members for a “short board” hearing deprives his client of his right to a full board while failing to remove the “taint.”
Robbins declined to comment yesterday, as did Tomasso’s lawyer, Brad Bailey. The college issued a statement yesterday saying it “will not comment on specific student conduct matters” but said it is committed to a “just result.”
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