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New York University (NYU) Campus Safety has finally sent a campus-wide Safety Alert email addressing an alleged assault on an Asian student, following days of social media pressure from the victim and other student supporters.
On Feb. 16, 22-year-old NYU student AJ Sun claimed in an Instagram post that he had been assaulted just the day before in front of the university’s Stern building around 4:30 p.m. Sun described his attacker as a “white male” with blond hair who “quickly fled the scene” after he had “punched the left side of [Sun’s] head for no reason.”
Sun, who contends that race was a motive in the attack, immediately reported the incident as a hate crime assault to NYU Campus Safety for its Daily Crime Log but heard nothing back.
Sun’s attack came just two days after the fatal stabbing of Chinatown resident Christina Yuna Lee and a month after Michelle Go was pushed onto train tracks at the Times Square-42nd Street station and killed. Both cases ignited a renewed demand for more security measures in the city.
For Sun, these recent incidents highlight a need for greater public safety measures across the NYU campus – a school that had a 19.38% Asian-identifying population during the 2020-2021 school year. He believes his case is indicative of the school’s failure to adequately protect its students.
“Any Asian student walking on campus is still in danger of random, sporadic and yet detrimental hate-infused attacks., NYU has not taken any action to even warn its Asian students about the danger in the surrounding neighborhood,” Sun wrote. “I used to be proud to call myself an NYUer, but now I’m just deeply disappointed and ashamed of how the school administration chooses to ignore such a ridiculous act happening right in the middle of campus.”
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Sun says he was later informed on a phone call that the Campus Safety office would not send a Safety Alert email to NYU students, because the incident didn’t meet the “necessary requirements,” which they did not explain any further.
Over the past year, NYU Campus Safety has previously sent out 19 campus-wide Safety Alert emails regarding incidents that happened on or near the Washington Square Park campus – where Sun was also purportedly attacked – involving members of the NYU community. At least eight of those incidents involved reported assault or harassment.
The student community has rallied around Sun following his post, which has received almost 5,000 likes and was shared far beyond his own following.
“I have received a tremendous amount of support from people I know and people I don’t know, and I greatly appreciate every single one of them,” Sun told NextShark. “Their support means so much to me that I know they have my back and I’m not fighting this on my own.”
On Feb. 17, Sun posted again to share that he had spoken with an alleged second victim, who wished to remain anonymous, claiming to have been assaulted by the same man on Feb. 13. They both independently filed a police report following their conversation.
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That same day, NYU Vice President for Campus Safety Fountain L. Walker sent a campus-wide email regarding Sun’s incident and two others from the past week, including one that took place on Feb. 7 and one on Feb. 13 – presumably the same incident anonymously shared with Sun. The attackers in both the alleged assaults on Feb. 7 and Feb. 13 purportedly matched Sun’s description of his own attacker. Walker announced that Campus Safety was working with the New York Police Department to investigate these incidents and whether or not they were racially motivated.
Sun was not informed of NYU’s change of decision to publicize his incident until he received the campus-wide email. The victims, as well as many of their supporters, reportedly believe that the email would not have been sent had a police report not been filed, according to AJ and the undergrad community leader.
Moving forward, Sun has again taken to social media to pose to fellow students what the university could do to better protect its students.
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In a statement, the Pan Asian Student Alliance at NYU’s Graduate School of Public Service offered a message of succor: “In response to the most recent wave of violence against members of the AAPI community, we would like to express our deepest support for both the members of the NYU community who have recently been attacked and the larger AAPI community who might be struggling with the fear and anxiety that comes with the news of more incidents.”
Community leaders also recommended that students take advantage of NYU resources such as Safe Ride, the Safe NYU app, the Bias Response Line, Counseling and Wellness services and the API Student Support Space.
Undergraduate community leader Sahana Sripadanna also expressed frustration at NYU’s slow response to the recent campus incidents but lauded NYU’s students for “acknowledging these harmful incidents with grace, speed and consideration.”
NYU Campus Safety did not respond to a request for clarification of their requirements for sending out a Campus Safety Alert email or to confirm if any steps were being taken to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
If you are an NYU student and wish to report an incident, you can contact the NYU Campus Safety’s Communications Center at +1 (212) 998-2222. If you feel unsafe on campus or are experiencing an emergency, you can use 1 of NYU’s 21 Emergency Call Boxes to immediately be put in touch with a Campus Security Officer. If you are in immediate danger or need emergency medical services, call 911.