CHAPEL HILL-Dressed to the nines in suits and sportcoats, 13 University students met yesterday with UNC-Chapel Hill's director of Public Safety to discuss police behavior at a March 30 fraternity party at UNC.
The party, sponsored by the UNC chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, was held in UNC's Great Hall, and the 822 available tickets to it sold out about 12:30 a.m. Students trying to enter the party after that time were turned away by campus police, which prompted some of the would-be partygoers-many of whom were not from UNC-to become rowdy and belligerent, said Trinity junior Jamaal Adams, who attended the party. In an April 8 letter to The Chronicle, Adams outlined what happened at the party and elaborated on his explanation in an interview yesterday.
When Adams and Trinity freshman Diahnna Baxter tried to enter the party, they also were denied entrance, at which point, Adams said, the crowd attempted to assault Adams, and then Baxter. When Baxter banged on the glass doors of the Great Hall to ask UNC Public Safety for help, the officer allegedly told her to "go home," ignoring her claim that some members of the mob had just threatened to kill her, Adams said.
Baxter and Adams managed to get away from the crowd before they were harmed, but another man was badly beaten by some people in the crowd and taken to the UNC hospital for treatment.
The reason for the meeting today, which was originally framed in terms of a protest but ended up being more of a quiet discussion, is that Adams and Baxter maintain that the UNC police acted irresponsibly. Had the officers intervened, they say, the violence could have been averted, Adams said in an interview Tuesday.
The 13 students met for about 40 minutes with Chief Donald Gold of UNC Public Safety and with UNC Dean of Students Fred Schroeder. They presented the two men with a piece of paper outlining the reasons for the meeting. According to the list, the three requests are the suspension of the officers involved for one week without pay; an official apology to Adams and Baxter in a letter to the editor in The Chronicle and The Daily Tar Heel, UNC's student newspaper; and an evaluation of the security measures currently employed at on-campus functions "to ensure proper checks and balances."
After the meeting, Adams said that he was pleased with the discussion and hoped that UNC Public Safety would continue to investigate the incident. "We're happy with the attitude that [Gold] displayed," Adams said. "He seemed interested-he seemed to show a sympathetic attitude toward the situation."
Adams stressed, however, that there is still work to be done to make amends for what happened on March 30. "As we stand right now, all that took place was the discussion, but until anything is done, we're going to keep working." He did not specify what further action the group might take if its demands are not met.
In his letter to The Chronicle, Adams seemed to suggest that UNC Public Safety's actions might have had racial undertones, as the officers at the scene-a black fraternity party-were white. "Would the cops have been more concerned if it were a white male being accosted by 15 black men?" he wrote. "Would a deaf ear have been turned to a young white female seeking refuge from a belligerent black man? I think not."
But Adams and Trinity senior Milan Selassie-who organized the protest with Adams-insisted that they are not attempting to bring race into the discussion.
"It's not because we are black, but it's because there were individuals who needed assistance and did not receive assistance," Selassie said in an interview. "We don't think it was a race thing, because it's kind of hard to assume what [the officers] were thinking."
Gold said that his department had already launched an Internal Affairs investigation of the incident. He said that he did know which officers were involved in the incident, but declined to release their names, saying that the situation would be dealt with as an internal matter. He also declined to comment on whether he had accepted the students' demand that the officers be suspended.
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"We need to discuss this with people who were actually there," he said, referring to those who witnessed the incident itself. Gold emphasized that the incident should in no way reflect on Kappa Alpha Psi or any other student organization, since those groups have worked well with Public Safety and are not to blame for what happened at the party.
UNC Public Safety also had to contend with other incidents that were related to the March 30 party, Gold said, including one assault on a Public Safety officer and another involving women in a nearby parking lot.