Pro-Trump Babson students cleared in Wellesley incident
Babson College has cleared two students of any disciplinary violations stemming from their controversial drive through Wellesley College to celebrate Donald Trump’s victory the day after the presidential election, their lawyers said Monday.
The students, Parker Rand-Ricciardi and Edward Tomasso, faced accusations of harassment and disorderly conduct before the college’s honor board on Friday.
The Nov. 9 incident sparked a post-election uproar, fueled by accusations on social media that the men spat on a Wellesley student and yelled racial and homophobic slurs while parked in front of Harambee House, a campus gathering place for African-American students.
Rand-Riccardi and Tomasso denied the allegations, and an investigation by Babson found no evidence the men did anything other than drive through the campus waving a Trump flag out the truck window and yelling “Make America Great Again.”
They are not facing criminal charges.
Jeffrey Robbins, an attorney for Rand-Ricciardi, said Monday that his client’s family is relieved the matter has come to a close.
“This has been an extremely difficult, painful five weeks for Parker and his family, one that has naturally taken a toll on them,” Robbins said in a statement. “They are grateful for the kindness and support of so many people, including both friends and complete strangers. Their hope is to spend some time decompressing and enjoying the holidays.”
Brad Bailey, Tomasso’s lawyer, said his client was “pleased and gratified” by the board’s decision.
“Babson College certainly had a system in place to deal with allegations like this, and he trusted in the system,” Bailey said.
“He is extremely happy that his name has been cleared of allegations that were completely untrue and had no basis in fact.”
A spokesman for Babson College declined to comment, citing student privacy laws. Wellesley officials could not be reached for comment.
Wellesley College, Hillary Clinton’s alma mater, held a peace walk on campus the Friday after the men’s celebratory drive.
During the walk, Wellesley senior Amber Walker, an events coordinator at Harambee House, told students she was standing in front of the building when the men drove by, and that “I have you guys here so I don’t have to go through this alone.”
On Monday, Walker said she was disappointed by the resolution of the case.
“For people that look like me, our struggle continues,” she said.
But the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which advocates for free speech rights on college campuses, welcomed the decision.
Ari Z. Cohn, director of the foundation’s individual rights defense program, said the group was pleased the men were cleared from “these baseless charges.”
“While Babson College is not bound by the First Amendment, its policies expressly recognize the importance and value of free speech,” he said.
“Once the more serious allegations were determined to be unsubstantiated, the college should have immediately dropped the matter. Babson must ensure that students are free to express their views without fear of official sanction.”
After the incident, Babson president Kerry Healey apologized to the Wellesley College community in a letter posted on her school’s website.
“We, the Babson community, were extremely upset to learn that two of our students engaged in behavior that was, at a minimum, insensitive, unacceptable, and contrary to our core values,” Healey wrote.
Both students were ousted from the fraternity they belonged to, Sigma Phi Epsilon. The fraternity’s national leadership called their alleged actions “abhorrent to our members, alumni, and staff” in a statement.
It was not clear Monday whether the students will be allowed to rejoin the fraternity or will seek reinstatement. Tomasso and Ricciardi could not be reached for comment.
Both students denied using profanity or slurs or spitting at Wellesley students, but shortly after the incident apologized for their behavior in Facebook postings.
Tomasso wrote that he “hurtfully displayed a flag that symbolizes fear for many people and my actions caused pain.”
Rand-Riccardi said his “insensitive celebration of the Trump victory was an extremely poor choice, plain and simple.”