On Nov 9, two students from Babson College, Edward Tomasso and Parker Rander-Ricciardi, drove around Wellesley College shouting slogans from Donald Trump’s campaign and harassing students. Most notably, they allegedly targeted students of color at Harambee House and reportedly spat at a student who approached them and requested that they leave. The students were apprehended by Wellesley Campus Police and asked to leave campus. A snapchat video from Tomasso showed the two boys cheerfully saying “We are officially banned from Wellesley College. If we are caught there, we will get arrested and subject to trespassing” and at the end of the video, Tomasso cheered, “Make America Great Again.”. These students were identified using evidence of Tomasso’s personalized license plate and social media posts.
This incident expands beyond the antagonism and harassment of a community in support of a political candidate. Rather, the incident seems to be a hate crime as students of color, notably Black students and their space, were specifically targeted.
“When one of our siblings of African descent confronted them by requesting that they leave, one of the students spat on her,” stated the Students of African Descent in a statement emailed to the community. “While we gathered in Harambee to grieve and heal together, Mr. Tomasso and Mr. Riccardi parked outside of Harambee House to instill a sense of fear in us,” the letter went on.
In a Facebook post shared publicly, Tomasso denies that he had any racist intention behind his action. “I’m not a racist” stated Tomasso, “In an act of extremely poor judgement I drove through Wellesley campus yelling ‘Trump 2016’ and ‘make america great again.’ I didn’t spit on or towards anyone…. I didn’t go to the Harambee House intentionally. I didn’t even know what that was.” While Tomasso admits that the incident did occur, he denies the part of the incident that would reflect a hate crime. In his own post, Rander-Ricciardi stated that “We had no idea that our actions would be interpreted as racist, or sexist or harassment… we should have left the area of Wellesley containing its campus when the first person shouted at us to leave.”
Both the Wellesley and Babson campus police have been investigating the incident by interviewing students. However, both police forces declined to comment for the News because there is still an ongoing investigation.
The event struck a particular note with students who felt like their safety within the Wellesley College campus had been violated. The incident began gaining additional social media attention when Wellesley College shared a Facebook post with photos and descriptions of Tomasso and RanderRicciardi, in addition to video proof that this incident had happened. “Today, Wellesley women, like a lot of America, were in mourning,” the post read. “They laughed, screamed and sped around campus. Then, they parked in front of the house for students of African descent, and jeered at them, screaming Trump and Make America Great Again. When one student asked them to leave, they spit in her direction.” That Facebook post currently has over 8,500 likes, 2,000 comments and 10,000 shares.
Over the course of the week, students called for Tomasso and Rander-Ricciardi’s suspension or expulsion. A statement from the Wellesley College Chief Justice stated, “We advocate the immediate and permanent removal of these individuals from the Babson College community.” In addition, students have called for the perpetrators to complete ethics reflections with the Assistant Director of Faith and Service, an education assignment on the impacts of their actions, a justice mediation with the affected students and a public apology to the Babson and Wellesley college communities.
The students of African Descent, including members of Wellesley African Students’ Association, blackOUT, Wellesley for Caribbean Development and ETHOS also called for immediate disciplinary action saying, “We ask that the utmost execution of disciplinary action be taken expeditiously regarding this matter.”
President Paula Johnson also released several statements through campus wide email including a forwarded message from President Kerry Healy, President of Babson College. “Please know that we are addressing this incident in the most appropriate, expedient, thoughtful and fair way possible,” stated Healy in the forwarded letter. “Many of you have questions about how Babson is addressing this issue. We immediately launched an investigation and are thoroughly reviewing all available information. While the investigation is ongoing, we ask members of the Babson and the Wellesley community to please understand that federal law prohibits us from discussing specific disciplinary actions or outcomes.”
Student reaction at Babson seems to be one of shock and appall at the actions of these members of their community. The Babson community has been hosting many forums to discuss the election, racial equality and this incident including forums hosted by the Origins for Necessary Equality organizations on campus. In addition, the members of the community have created a “Babson Stands With Wellesley” banner to be given to the Wellesley community which features signatures from hundreds of members of the Babson community. With feedback from the Wellesley community, the Babson community to be one of shock and appall at the actions of these members of their community. The Babson community has been hosting many forums to discuss the election, racial equality and this incident including forums hosted by the Origins for Necessary Equality organizations on campus. In addition, the members of the community have created a “Babson Stands With Wellesley” banner to be given to the Wellesley community which features signatures from hundreds of members of the Babson community. With feedback from the Wellesley community, the Babson community will present this banner at a forum on Wednesday as a symbolic first step “in mending our tarnished relationship with their community” according to the Facebook event description.
In an email addressing the the Wellesley community, President Johnson emphasized the importance of standing together. “Wellesley is a place where we uphold justice and equity. This is a place where you are valued and celebrated.”