A discussion about race. It's a conversation the UAlbany president says needed to happen, after tension escalated on campus regarding an alleged incident on a CDTA bus that some claim was racially charged. Tanja Rekhi has more on the forum.
ALBANY, N.Y. -- Speaking to a packed room of nearly 200 students and faculty members, UAlbany president Robert Jones called for the campus community to have tough conversations about race.
Those talks, perhaps more important after three black students claim they were attacked due their race in January.
"It's difficult for most places to have an honest conversation about race and the way that race still plays a role in contemporary society," Jones said.
While the investigation is still ongoing, president Jones wasted no time, denouncing the alleged bus attack in a letter sent to the campus community, just hours after the alleged incident, which read, in part, "I am deeply concerned, saddened and angry about this incident. There is no place in the UAlbany community for violence, no place for racial intolerance and no place for gender violence.”
"What you saw from me was compassion that I show for each and every one of my students. Any time something is reported that puts our students in harms way, you're always going to see me lead with compassion," he said.
Hundreds of people echoed that compassion at a rally to defend the three black students, however, not every one shares the sentiment.
As the investigation continues, some question if the girls were beaten by a group of white people as they claimed. Surveillance video hasn't been made available to public. But city leaders who have seen it, say it's hard to determine exactly what happened.
"It's just sad that they had to do that because you know, it just gives people of color a bad name. You don't have to lie about that," said UAlbany student Justin Middleton.
"These things occur- we're bound to feel unsafe especially if you're a person of color- you're a minority. You're bound to feel unsafe," said UAlbany student Kretel Krah.
While Tuesday's conversation was planned prior to the alleged incident, president Jones is looking at it as a teachable moment.
One where students and faculty can have candid conversations, without the media present.
"We have more work to do and that's the reason why we are having this conversation is to continually, systematically, build on our efforts to make this an inclusive university and a place where people can have an amazing experience as employees, as students, and as a member of this vibrant community," he said.