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SUNY Brockport calls off 'dirt-digging' probe 

The president of SUNY Brockport has ordered the chief of campus police to cease investigating a tip on the college’s former head diversity officer, Cephas Archie, whose firing three weeks ago has sparked student protests and harsh public criticism.

A cryptic statement issued by the college this week read that the Office of the President shared an anonymous voicemail containing an allegation about “a former employee of the college” with the chief of campus police.

“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 statement read. “The president has ordered the chief to cease this inquiry.”

click to enlarge Hartwell Hall at SUNY Brockport. The campus has seen unrest since the firing of the college's chief diversity officer, Cephas Archie. - PHOTO COURTESY WIKICOMMONS
  • PHOTO COURTESY WIKICOMMONS
  • Hartwell Hall at SUNY Brockport. The campus has seen unrest since the firing of the college's chief diversity officer, Cephas Archie.

Andrew Burns, a lawyer for Archie, said the “former employee of the college” was a reference to his client.

Burns said the police chief, Dan Vasile, contacted a former colleague of Archie’s at Houston Community College, where Archie worked prior to joining SUNY Brockport in 2017, “trying to dig up dirt on him.”

The colleague, Sabrina Lewis, who no longer works at Houston Community College, issued her own statement through Burns in which she described Vasile asking whether Archie had fired her from HCC. Court records show Lewis lost her job at HCC after she had an altercation with a subordinate.

Her statement read that Archie had nothing to do with her employment at HCC and that “it was obvious to me Chief Vasile wanted me to provide him with disparaging information and dirt regarding Dr. Archie . . .”

She described Archie as a respectful and supportive colleague who was admired by faculty, staff, and students.

Burns called the episode “disturbing” and contrary to college President Heidi Macpherson’s efforts to restore trust in the administration and its diversity efforts.

Why Archie, who is black, was fired has not been made public, although the college’s handling of his departure has prompted accusations of racial insensitivity from Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and others.

David Andreatta is CITY's editor. He can be reached at dandreatta@rochester-citynews.com.

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