Cornell Fraternity Closes Indefinitely After Racially Charged Attack


New York Times

The alumni board of a Cornell University fraternity has decided to close the school’s chapter indefinitely, the school said Tuesday, after students who may have been involved in the fraternity were accused of attacking a black student, beating him and calling him by a racial epithet.

A Cornell undergraduate was arrested in connection with the episode and charged with third-degree assault. The Ithaca Police Department identified him on Tuesday as John Greenwood, 19.

Mr. Greenwood’s lawyer, Raymond M. Schlather, said in an email that his client was not “involved in any physical altercation of any kind.”

“Nor did he commit any crime,” he added.

The fraternity, Psi Upsilon, was banned by Cornell in 2016 after a long history of complaints that it violated the school’s code of conduct.

The final offense was its decision to give a party during a suspension, which had been put in place because the fraternity president was accused of sexually assaulting someone at the frat house — he later pleaded guilty to forcible touching. But a group had been trying to bring the fraternity back to campus.

The doors will now remain shuttered.

In a statement posted on the school’s website, Cornell administrators said the alumni Board of Governors of Cornell’s Psi Upsilon chapter informed the school of its decision late Monday.

The school said the alumni board would continue with planned renovations to the fraternity’s building, and when it reopens during the 2018-19 school year, it will be devoted to “student organizations at Cornell that are dedicated to promoting a diverse and inclusive student community.”

“We appreciate this gesture by Cornell alumni of Psi Upsilon to help promote healing in our community,” the statement said.

The Cornell community has been shaken by at least two racially charged incidents since the start of the school year. Earlier this month, at least one student was chanting about “building a wall” near the Latino Living Center on campus, according to the school.

On Sunday, Martha E. Pollack, the president of Cornell University, said in a statement that she would set up a task force “charged with examining and addressing persistent problems of bigotry and intolerance at Cornell.”

The decision to close Psi Upsilon was made by alumni of the fraternity at Cornell. But the international Psi Upsilon organization is conducting its own investigation.

Thomas J. Fox, executive director of Psi Upsilon Fraternity, said that the group’s executive council could decide soon on possible sanctions, which might include a suspension or expulsion.

Mr. Schlather, in the email, said he was confident Mr. Greenwood would be vindicated.

“To be clear, the use of the n word, and any related racist or derogatory language, is completely unacceptable not only at Cornell but anywhere in America,” he said. “My client understands this well; such language not only offends his values but does not reflect the person he is.