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University of Hartford President Calls Hate Crime Incident a ‘Wake Up Call’

The University of Hartford is taking swift action in the wake of a disturbing incident between two students.

Former freshman Brianna Brochu is accused of tampering with her black roommate’s possessions, including putting blood on her backpack and moldy clam dip in her lotion, among other allegations. 

"It really should not have come to this level," freshman Parker Morano said.

The university administration agrees. University of Hartford President Gregory Woodward is engaging in a student dialogue with the hope of coming up with concrete answers.

"We are going to review our practices, review our process, review how the whole thing unfolded," Woodward said.

The victim, Chennel Rowe, shed some light on the situation in a Facebook Live post that has been seen hundreds of thousands of times.

"While I’ve been here I have been getting sick, not knowing why I’ve been getting sick," Rowe said on the Facebook post.

While some students said the situation could have been addressed sooner, Woodward insists the university acted swiftly by launching an investigation the moment it came to light.

"The victim and the university found out about the situation at the same exact moment in time," Woodward said. "Within five minutes of that moment of time, our safety and security team people were at her room."

Woodward calls the situation a "wake up call" and "a chance to do better." Through open dialogue and educational sessions, Woodward hopes to tackle the difficult topic of race with the hope of creating a positive from this negative situation.

Last Wednesday night, more than 400 students, faculty members, administrators, alumni, representatives from the NAACP and community leaders held a student-run multicultural meeting about the incident to allow students and speakers to talk about race on college campuses.

"The black community, right now, we are really hurting because for us we just look at ourselves and we think wow this could have been us," sophomore Jade Baker said.

"There is an awful lot to do to fix the way people feel and that is what I am interested in," Woodward said.

Brochu is no longer a student at the university and she is facing charges of breach of peace and criminal mischief. In court on Wednesday, West Hartford police said they also asked the judge to add a charge of intimidation based on bigotry and bias.

Woodward said he has met at length with Rowe and offered whatever support from the university she may need.

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