Fraternity Psi Upsilon is shutting down its chapter at Cornell University after an alleged assault that authorities said is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
Following an incident, apparently involving members of Psi Upsilon, in which a white student allegedly attacked a black one, Cornell President Martha Pollack said this week that pending an investigation, the university would not reinstate the fraternity. Cornell had revoked the fraternity’s recognition last year for violating its code of conduct, according to the Associated Press.
“I will not tell you ‘this is not who we are,’ as the events of the past few weeks belie that. But it is absolutely not who we want to be,” Pollack said in a statement.
The school’s president said Sunday that its leaders are working to “develop and implement steps to be a more equitable, inclusive and welcoming university.”
Cornell said Tuesday that Psi Upsilon’s alumni board of governors notified the university that it plans to close the Chi chapter on the campus and convert the fraternity house into a space for use by other student organizations “that are dedicated to promoting a diverse and inclusive student community.”
The suspect, identified by authorities as 19-year-old Cornell student John Greenwood, has been charged with third-degree assault, and police said further charges are pending in an incident that occurred early Friday morning in Collegetown in Ithaca, N.Y. Ithaca police said in a statement that they are investigating the incident, “including the elements that this assault was based on racial bias.”
Police spokesman Jamie Williamson told The Washington Post that racial slurs were used during the attack but said he could not confirm which ones because no one has been charged with a hate crime at this time. He also said he could not confirm whether Greenwood was the one who used the slurs.
Psi Upsilon Executive Director Thomas Fox said Wednesday that no one matching Greenwood’s name is a member but referred The Post to a statement that says the fraternity was alerted to “an alleged hate crime involving members affiliated with the Chi Chapter of Psi Upsilon at Cornell University.”
Greenwood is set to appear in court Sept. 27.
His attorney, Raymond M. Schlather, could not immediately be reached for comment, but he told the New York Times in an email that Greenwood was not “involved in any physical altercation of any kind.”
The Cornell Daily Sun reported that the victim said he was attempting to intervene during a fight when a group of white men started using the n-word. The victim, who was not named, said that when he confronted them, he was repeatedly punched in the face.
The incident comes more than a year after members of the Cornell chapter were suspended and banned from all Psi Upsilon functions, according to the fraternity.
As The Post’s Susan Svrluga reported, the suspension came after Wolfgang Ballinger, a former Psi Upsilon president at Cornell, was charged with first-degree attempted rape, first-degree criminal sex act with a helpless victim and sexual misconduct in an incident at the fraternity house. He pleaded guilty to forcible touching and was sentenced to probation, according to news reports.
Following Friday’s incident, the fraternity said, “Racism and hate has no place in Psi Upsilon and will not be tolerated.”
“Our thoughts are with the young man who was assaulted, and all the students at Cornell who are affected by this atrocious crime,” Fox, the executive director of Psi Upsilon, said in a statement. “The purpose of Psi Upsilon Fraternity is ‘United in Friendship, Psi Upsilon members aspire to moral, intellectual, and social excellence in themselves as they seek to inspire these values in society.’ ”
Pollack, the university president, said she has asked interfraternity and panhellenic council leaders to develop a diversity training and education program for all fraternity and sorority members. She also announced a presidential task force that will address “persistent problems of bigotry and intolerance at Cornell.”
“For the vast majority of Cornellians who abhor these recent events, our community needs your help,” Pollack said.
“Please speak out against injustice, racism and bigotry, and reach out to support one another. Ours must be a community grounded in mutual respect and kindness.”