Cornell shutters fraternity chapter of Psi Upsilon after possible racial assault
Cornell University permanently disbanded a fraternity on Tuesday after several of its affiliated members were allegedly involved in an assault that is being investigated by police as a possible hate crime.
Authorities in Ithaca, New York, responded to reports of a fight early Friday involving several students at the Ivy League school, a police report said. Some of those students were members of the already suspended Cornell chapter of Psi Upsilon, according to the fraternity headquarters' website.
Only one suspect was identified in the altercation: John Greenwood, 19, who was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor count of third-degree assault.
Thomas Fox, executive director of Psi Upsilon, told NBC News that "Greenwood is not, nor was ever, a member of Psi Upsilon Fraternity."
Witnesses claim Greenwood used racial slurs against the victim, who is black, and authorities say they are investigating if the attack was racially motivated.
Raymond Schlather, Greenwood's attorney, said his client was "in no way involved in any physical altercation of any kind," adding, "nor did he commit any crime."
"To be clear, the use of the n word [sic], and any related racist or derogatory language, is completely unacceptable not only at Cornell but anywhere in America," Schlather wrote in an email. "My client understands this well; such language not only offends his values but does not reflect the person he is."
After reports of the alleged assault surfaced, Psi Upsilon announced it would be shuttering the chapter indefinitely. A statement from Cornell also said that the Psi Upsilon alumni Board of Governors agreed to continue renovations on the chapter's fraternity house, which was already vacant since last year.
Upon the house's finished renovation in 2018-19, the location would be open to "student organizations at Cornell that are dedicated to promoting a diverse and inclusive student community."
"Our thoughts are with the young man who was assaulted, and all the students at Cornell who are affected by this atrocious crime," Fox said in a statement.
He added that the "crimes reported on the evening of September 15th are in opposition to these values and have no place in Psi Upsilon Fraternity or at any college campus."
Cornell President Martha Pollack said the school "will take appropriate disciplinary action against individuals and organizations involved" once an investigation is completed.
Several additional steps to combat racially motivated crimes were announced in the statement, including directing the heads of the Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils to develop diversity training.
Cornell's Psi Upsilon chapter, which dates back to 1876, has been embattled since last year when its president, Wolfgang Ballinger, was charged in connection with a sex assault at the fraternity house.
The fraternity initially faced an interim suspension, but after the chapter violated the terms of the suspension by throwing a party, Cornell revoked its recognition of Psi Upsilon for three years, reported student newspaper The Cornell Daily Sun.