News of the recent hate incident at the University of Hartford has left some University of Connecticut students with doubts about university systems meant to protects students from such incidents.
Last Wednesday, it came to light that former University of Hartford student Brianna Brochu is facing charges for hate crimes. Brochu admitted to police that she licked her black roommate’s eating utensils and smeared body fluids on her backpack, among others acts, in order to get rid of her roommate.
“I hear stories about things like this all the time,” seventh-semester finance major Abby Koomson said. “It breaks my heart that people will go to such great lengths because they don't want to deal with their own insecurities and end up hurting innocent people in the process.”
Brochu was expelled and University of Hartford president Greg Woodward said he “took actions immediately” once he found about the events, according to the Hartford Courant.
“It is clear there is work to be done at our university to ensure that all students feel safe, respected and valued,” Woodward said. “The conversations that began with student groups, faculty and staff yesterday are going to continue and involve our full community.”
After learning about what happened, fifth-semester communications major Hezekiah Johnson said he was disturbed and full of questions.
“Why didn’t her roommate just leave if she didn’t want her there? Why did she have to mess with her stuff? What did she get from it? Satisfaction?” Johnson said.
Seventh-semester Spanish and sociology double major Vinecia Thaxter said she didn’t even think it was real, because she feels that while roommates may not get along, people would not do such a thing.
“I thought it was the most outrageous thing ever,” Thaxter said.
A video filmed by Channel “Jazzy” Rowe, the affected roommate, went viral, and the hashtag #JusticeforJazzy became popular on social media.
In the video, Rowe said Brochu had documented acts she had done to get rid of Rowe, whom Brochu called “Jamaican Barbie.”
“It's amazing how low people go to make the lives of those they don't like so stressful,” Koomson said. “But then again I'm also not surprised that it happened. My cousin recently had a similar encounter where her roommate put cleaning products in her mouthwash.”
Thaxter said minority students are forced to take actions when incidents like this happen because universities seem not to care.
“Jazzy clearly didn’t feel safe. Her roommate should have been expelled on the spot but that didn’t happen until people on social media called for it,” Thaxter said.
The response from the university, Johnson said, could have been better and they should have done more to prevent something like this from happening in the first place.
“I feel like they should have kept checking in with the students to see how everything was going so this could have been detected beforehand, but it took social media for action to really take place,” Johnson added.
Koomson said she hopes this racist incident can be used as a tool to create dialogue everywhere.
“Oftentimes (universities) try to settle the issue as quickly as possible to avoid bad press,” Koomson said. “But I think these moments should be highlighted and used as a teaching moment. These events should prompt conversation about race, campus safety and roommate conflicts as well the consequences behind certain actions.”
Back in 2014, UConn was at the center of the discussion after an incident between a predominantly black sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, and the white fraternity Pike Kappa Alpha.
The sorority claimed they were the target of racially and sexually charged language during a confrontation in September over the painting of the spirit rock. The sorority also suffered backlash from anonymous social media sources over the event.
Thaxter said she remembers the incident and some others and said not much has changed, but she has trust in students to speak up and change things.
“I applaud our student body and others nationwide that demand action,” Thaxter said. “It’s essential to use our voices and our methods of communication such as video recordings and social media to try to make a change. It will just take an immense amount of time.”
Regardless, for Thaxter, administration is slow and unresponsive to the efforts of minority students.
Johnson said he was disturbed the incident occurred in the state of Connecticut, and added that it showed people will do horrible things to other people for the sake of doing them.
“It’s disgusting,” Johnson said.
Regarding the incident happening in the state, Thaxter said she believed it may surprise people because they don’t see blatant racist acts every day.
“Hartford and East Hartford are some of the most segregated places in the state and it is visibly obvious,” Thaxter said. “We deal with microaggressions.”
Koomson said this was a case of white privilege and entitlement of being above the law.
“It happened because white people are so accustomed to having their way and thinking they are above the law so they do whatever they please,” Koomson said. “After all, when you look at headlines of anything involving law enforcement, it typically involves people of color, primarily black individuals. It isn’t right because a black man could be simply walking down the street and could end up being targeted by the police.”
Daniela Marulanda is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.