One current and three former students filed a lawsuit against the university in late April after being arrested last year in an incident outside CLARC that some believe was racially motivated.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, charges the university and UR Security officers James Clukey and Raymond Pipitone with seven causes of action: false arrest, battery and excessive use of force, assault, malicious prosecution, emotional distress, violation of equal rights and negligent supervision, hiring and training.
The students are seeking a total of $6.5 million in actual and punitive damages from the university and the officers.
University spokesperson Sharon Dickman said that the university could not comment on the lawsuit because it is pending in the federal courts. The four students and their lawyer, Jeffrey Wicks, also declined to comment.
Senior Grant Gittins, former UR student Nigel S. Phillip, Class of 1999 graduate St. Patrick Reid and junior Bernard Schmidt were arrested on April 30, 1999 outside CLARC after a confrontation between a group of students and Security officers. The students state in their lawsuit that the officers took action against the four students without justification and, as a result, caused them physical and emotional pain.
The lawsuit alleges that on the night of April 30, 1999, a group of students who returned from a Senior Night were socializing inside the CLARC lobby when Clukey asked the group to move outside.
As the students were moving to the sidewalk behind Rush Rhees Library, the suit claims that Clukey demanded to see Gittens? UR ID and contacted the Rochester Police Department after receiving the card.
The students claim that they were treated rudely by Clukey, who refused to return the UR ID, and Pipitone, a Security supervisor. When RPD and other Security officers arrived, it is alleged that police officers used pepper spray on Reid and arrested all four students.
Gittins, Phillip and Schmidt were each charged with disorderly conduct, and Gittins was also charged with second-degree harassment, a violation. Reid was charged with obstructing governmental administration.
The Rochester Police Department and the City of Rochester are not named in the lawsuit because the four students did not file notices of claim against RPD or the City of Rochester.
New York State law dictates that in order to sue a government entity in any municipality, notices of claim must be filed within 90 days of the incident, and lawsuits must be filed within a year and 90 days of the incident, according to Linda Kingsley, corporate counsel for the city of Rochester. The four students filed their suit just before the one-year deadline to file against private parties such as the university.
The charges against all four students were adjourned in contemplation of dismissal after they spent a night at the Monroe County Jail. Charges against Reid and Schmidt were dropped after UR President Thomas Jackson wrote to the Rochester City Court asking that the charges against all four students be dismissed.
Many UR students became outraged after the incident, charging that Security officers targeted the students outside CLARC because most of them were black.
After an investigation, the university concluded that although the officers? actions were not consciously motivated by race, they did not help calm the situation. Jackson apologized to the students involved.