Tuesday, September 17, 1996

Administrators check MEChA riot complaint

By Glenn Hurowitz

Contributing Reporter

Administrators are investigating a police complaint filed early Monday morning by MEChA after students in Lanman-Wright Hall sprayed water on their Mexican Independence Day gathering from a fourth-floor window.

Leaders of the Mexican-American campus group Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Atzlan have notified the Saybrook College Master's Office in the wake of the incident, which may result in disciplinary action against the students involved.

"We called the police because it was very important to MEChA members not to let this get pushed under the rug," MEChA Chairman Norma Copado '97 said. "The incident was symptomatic of a trend of little communication across the campus."

Wright Hall residents Joseph Mouallem '00 and Karna Basu '00 said the raucous celebration, which included drinking, dancing, and loud music, provoked them to hose down the nighttime revelers.

"I was sitting in our common room trying to study," Basu said. "Joe came in and we saw a loud party with people drinking and screaming."

They decided to spray the crowd outside their window with lukewarm water "to quiet them down and add an element of excitement. We did not know who they were," Basu added.

Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg said she is unaware of the incident.

MEChA members said there was no excuse for the freshpeople's actions.

"There's never a reason to do this. This is Yale. There's a [proper] forum for expression of grievances," MEChA member Alfonso Maldonado '97 said.

Following an initial spraying, the crowd erupted into a clamor. Basu and Mouallem said they took the noise as encouragement, and continued to spray the crowd below until several MEChA members went to their room to complain.

An argument ensued, with Copado accusing the students of ignorance and insensitivity.

"I believe and all of us believe that what just happened now was an act of disrespect. Instead of hosing us with water, they could have come down and asked us to quiet down," Copado said. "We understand that people have to study and would have turned the volume down."

Rahul Rajkumar '00, who lives with Basu and Mouallem, blamed Copado for making the incident into something it was not.

"The incident was not directed at Mexican-Americans. Norma Copado escalated what was just an adolescent prank into a racial incident," he said.

According to Itzolin Garcia '98, a MEChA member who witnessed the altercation, Basu and Mouallem "were shocked and surprised because they didn't know what they were getting into. They sort of stumbled into a really compromising situation."

Mouallem said Copado assumed the prank was racially motivated.

"She insulted me by even insinuating that our actions were racially motivated. We had no idea who they were when we hosed them.," added Mouallem.

Both he and Basu apologized for the incident. "We sincerely regret our actions. We did not know how special this occasion was and if we had been aware of the importance of it, we would not have sprayed them," Basu said.

Witnesses like Zachary Kaufman '00 said they did not believe the incident was driven by prejudice.

"I don't think it was targeted at anyone. I think it was a practical joke that was a little overreacted to," Kaufman said.

Both parties expressed their desire to foster further communication and prevent future incidents. Garcia reported that MEChA will try to publicize their activities more and invite people of all backgrounds to join them.

"We would have liked to join in the celebration," Basu said.

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Copyright 1996 The Yale Daily News