Brockport’s Chief of University Police wanted to ‘dig up dirt’ on fired Diversity Officer, says lawyer

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BROCKPORT, N.Y. (WROC) — Andrew Burns, a lawyer representing the recently fired SUNY Brockport Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Cephas Archie, says the campus police chief Daniel Vasile was trying to “dig up dirt” on his client last week.

According to Burns, Vasile contacted Dr. Sabrina Lewis, a former colleague of Dr. Archie at the Houston Community College on Friday, February 14 — one day after students protested recent “racial issues” on campus. In a statement, Dr. Lewis described what occurred:

“On Friday, February 14, 2020, Daniel Vasile contacted me by e-mail through LinkedIn. He then called my cell phone and left a voicemail indicting he was calling me from New York and was given my number by someone who said I would have some information for him.”

MORE | Fired Brockport Chief Diversity Officer: ‘I remain with you always in solidarity’

Dr. Lewis’ statement continued:

“I then looked on LinkedIn to see who this individual was and learned his position as the Chief of Police at the College at Brockport State University of New York. I then returned his call. When he answered the phone, he stated he was informed Dr. Archie terminated me. I immediately informed him that Dr. Archie was not my supervisor at Houston Community College and he had nothing to do with my employment.

MORE | SUNY Brockport students protest against ‘racial issues’ on campus

“After further discussion with Chief Vasile, it was obvious to me Chief Vasile wanted me to provide him with disparaging information and dirt regarding Dr. Archie and I told him if so, he had the wrong person to use as a witness.”

University officials released this statement Monday:

“The President’s Office recently received an anonymous voicemail from an individual who claimed to have information about a former employee of the College. Because of the nature of the allegations, the voicemail was shared with our chief of police for his records. While the police chief did look into this allegation, our own review revealed that since this employee no longer works for the College and the allegations pre-date their employment, the inquiry should not have occurred. The President has ordered the chief to cease this inquiry.”

SUNY Brockport’s diversity developments have made headlines lately after the controversial firing of its Dr. Archie a few weeks ago. Dr. Archie told News 8 at the time that his firing was performance related.

On the night of his firing, students on campus protested the administration’s decision to fire Dr. Archie. SUNY Brockport officials then held a town hall event on campus to discuss the matter.

MORE | Employee files charge of discrimination against College at Brockport

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren was critical of the college’s decision to fire Dr. Archie, taking to Facebook to say, in part, “It’s unfortunate when people that work toward diversity and inclusion across the collegiate spectrum also face it themselves.”

Earlier this month, Dr. Sandra Vazquez, SUNY Brockport’s Diversity Recruitment and Retention Specialist, resigned from her position.

In a letter to colleagues, Dr. Vazquez wrote in part:

“Over the years the climate has had its challenges. And more recently, the impact of the events that have occurred will make it nearly impossible to recruit and retain underrepresented employees.”

MORE | SUNY Brockport diversity specialist on resignation: ‘My support system is gone’

State University of New York Chancellor Kristina Johnson described the tension on the SUNY Brockport campus as “disheartening” and “not acceptable” in a letter to Mayor Warren.

Johnson, who was replying to a February 5 letter from Mayor Warren, said the issues resolving the climate at Brockport are “of great concern.”

Additionally, just last week, a College at Brockport employee filed a charge of discrimination against the university with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Vicki Elsenheimer, the schools administrative assistant to the Vice President for Advancement, filed the complaint through the EEOC.

In the complaint, Elsenehimer says “Based on the behaviors of individual and institutional racism, I believe I have been discriminated against because of my race.” She is claiming she was passed up for a title promotion because of her race.

MORE | SUNY Chancellor: Brockport situation ‘not acceptable,’ visit forthcoming

She says in the documents that three of the four administrative assistants received title changes to executive assistant. She’s the fourth one and says she didn’t get that title. Elsenheimer says those three were white women and she is the only African American female reporting to a member of the president’s cabinet.

Elsenheimer says she complained to human resources and was later given the title but never received an explanation as to why she didn’t get the title change at the same time as the others.

The university announced earlier this month that it would be formally changing its name back to SUNY Brockport, from the current The College at Brockport title, later this year.

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