A University at Albany student from Long Island is at the center of what she describes as a racially motivated attack by her white peers, which is being investigated by state campus police.
Asha Burwell, a 2013 graduate of Walt Whitman High School in South Huntington, and two other African-American women say they were beaten and called racial epithets by 10 to 12 white students as they all rode a Capital District Transportation Authority bus at 1 a.m. Saturday.
Burwell, of Huntington Station, has said no one came to her aid during the melee, which first began as a verbal altercation.VideoLI students: SUNY Albany attack was racially motivated
“I begged for people to help us and instead of help, they told us to ‘shut the [expletive] up’ and continuously hit us in the head,” she said on Twitter.
Albany university president Robert Jones, in a letter to students this week, said he was concerned, saddened and angered by the incident. A college spokesman said Jones did not have further comment, but is monitoring the investigation.
“There is no place in the UAlbany community for violence, no place for racial intolerance and no place for gender violence,” he said.
The melee prompted a campus rally Monday that attracted hundreds of students, faculty and staff.
Burwell, a high honor roll student in high school and a former member of Whitman’s varsity track and tennis teams, spoke briefly at the rally. She said, as seen as a video on Twitter, “We are determined to seek the justice which we deserve and we will not give up.”
She could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
J. Frank Wiley, chief of the New York State University Police, the lead agency on the investigation, said the melee was captured on the bus’ own video recorder. He said 29 of 34 “persons of interest” have been identified and 16 already have been interviewed.
A university spokesman said Tuesday afternoon that the investigation is ongoing and that the attack was also captured on cellphone video.
A spokesman for the Albany Police Department told The Associated Press on Saturday that officers responded to a report of an assault at about 1:20 a.m. Saturday outside a dorm.
Albany Officer Steven Smith told the AP that one of the women was treated at a hospital for minor injuries. He said the two others denied medical attention at the scene.
Smith said investigators are looking into whether a hate crime was committed.
Sami Schalk, assistant professor in the university’s English department, said she attended Monday’s rally to show support for the three young women.
“I want our students to feel safe on campus and get the education they deserve,” she said in an interview.
She invited students in her class on Monday to talk about what happened and to discuss possible solutions.
“They want people to know this is not the norm,” she said. “They want to keep the conversation going and make sure justice is served.”