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Pres. Jones speaks to media about CDTA incident at roundtable

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Connor Murphy

Amidst controversy surrounding the three University at Albany students set to go to trial for filing a false incident report among other charges, university President Robert J. Jones held a media roundtable in his personal office on Feb. 26. The afternoon dialogue was set to address some of the President’s remarks in open letters and videos to the student body over a weeks-long police investigation into the original reports.

“The events of the last several weeks have been very unsettling not only for this university but for the entire community,” Jones said.

The media event came a day removed from a new twist in the assault case, in which investigators said the original incident report filed by UAlbany student Asha Burwell was in contradiction with video evidence taken from the university shuttle bus. Burwell, along with the newly named defendants Ariel Agudio, and Alexis Briggs, had claimed in their Jan. 30 report that they were the victims of a racially-motivated assault.

“I feel compassion for anyone who feels they are victims of the events that occurred over the past few weeks,” Jones said.

One major contention in the conversation was Jones’s Jan. 30 letter to the student body, in which he wrote, “Early this morning, three of our students were harassed and assaulted while riding on a CDTA bus on Western Ave. in Albany.”

Jones’s specific wording was criticized in an open letter by Jeffrey Rosenheck, in which the UAlbany senior student wrote to the President, “To me, this is not a racial problem. This is not a gender problem. This is not a black versus white, or male versus female, or student versus student problem. This is about what is right. This is about due process.”

When asked if he would’ve changed the wording in the original letter, Jones replied, “Absolutely not…hindsight is always 20/20 they say, but I would not at this juncture do anything different, because as I said in the opening remarks, we had to go with the information we had to go with the information we had in hand.”

In a few of the remarks Jones made during the roundtable, the President seemed hesitant or forgetful in his review of the evidence. “I’ve seen the video from the news reports,” he said. The President didn’t give an answer when asked of the first time he saw the video evidence, but did add: “I was not involved in the DA’s office.”

“In meeting with the police, they gave us a brief overview of the CDTA tape initially as the information became available,” Jones said.

On the question of whether or not the three students would be expelled, Jones explained that he could not comment on the situations of specific students by law and the student’s code of conduct. He added that the student conduct review process had no timeframe, citing that it was being handled on a systematic level. That review process is not related to the court process in any way, explained the President.

The alleged 19 year-old victim in the new case against the three UAlbany women is not a student of the university, according to President Jones.

Jones closed the roundtable pointing out that the CDTA-university relationship is a crucial part of getting students to and from school. “As far as we know, they’re a safe form of transportation.”
More reports on this unfolding story can be found here.

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