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Student Leaves University of Hartford After Backlash Over Possible Hate Crime

Nov 1, 2017

Students from the University of Hartford have been taking to social media over the university's handling of a dispute between roommates that ended in an arrest.

West Hartford police said that Brianna Rae Brochu, a white student, admitted to licking her black roommate's dining utensils and smearing bodily fluids on her backpack. Brochu also posted on Instagram, where she wrote about putting moldy food and spit in her roommate's beauty products, according to police. 

Some students believe the university has been slow to react

"I feel like the university -- whenever there's something they think can affect their public image, it's swept under the rug," said Alexia Maitland, a senior and president of the Black Student Union on campus. "Why does it take us going public on social media for us to get a statement from someone?"

Police were notified of the incident in mid-October, and arrested Brochu on Saturday. The university released its first statement on the event on October 31, in which the university president referred to the actions as bullying. Many students say that characterization minimizes what actually happened.

Social media posts have been calling for Brochu to be expelled. In a statement released on November 1, the university noted that Brochu is no longer a student, but didn't elaborated further.

In an email to WNPR, spokesperson Mildred McNeill said that Brochu "was dismissed through our student conduct process." 

In a statement, university President Greg Woodard said that it's clear that more work needs to be done to make students feel "safe, respected and valued."

"The conversations that began with student groups, faculty, and staff yesterday are going to continue and involve our full community," Woodard wrote. 

During WNPR's  interview with Alexia Maitland, university administrator DeLois Lindsey came in, surprised that students were talking to a journalist. 

"Don't talk to people without letting us know, you understand what I'm saying," Lindsey told the small group of students. "Because this, as far as I'm concerned, we have internal things to settle, be very careful what you say."

She later came in and asked WNPR to leave. 

Police are asking the court to charge Brochu with a felony hate crime, though court records only indicate that she's been charged with breech of peace and criminal mischief, both misdemeanors. West Hartford Police Lt. Michael Perruccio did not respond to requests for comment on the hate crime charge. 

Brochu is due in court later this month. A university event scheduled for Wednesday night to talk about these events has been closed to the media.