Harvard Senior Accused Of Involvement In Murder Accuses School Of Racism

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Chanequa Campbell, 21, is a Harvard student and sociology major who has won scholarships through Goldman Sachs, Coca Cola and The New York Times. She planned to graduate June 4th, but because of her alleged involvement in the murder of a local drug dealer, Campbell has been ordered off campus.


Justin Cosby, a Cambridge resident and suspected pot dealer, was fatally wounded on May 18th during what police believe was a robbery gone awry. He was shot in the stomach in Kirkland House, a university dormitory, but he managed to run out into the street before collapsing. He died several hours later in the hospital.

Jordan Copney, a professional songwriter from New York, has been charged with his murder, the Times of London reports. It is believed that Copney targeted Cosby because he was carrying a large stash of marijuana and $1,000 in cash. Copney allegedly knew Cosby through two girls who attended Harvard: his girlfriend, and her close friend, Campbell. Police say that Cosby sold drugs to the Harvard students, including the two girls reportedly involved in the shooting.

Prosecutors believe that Cosby was "visiting friends on the campus" when he was confronted by Copney, who had traveled to campus with the express purpose of robbing Cosby. It is unknown how Copney gained access to the dormitory, but police believe that Campbell loaned him her security pass, an allegation that Campbell thoroughly denies. Once Copney was in the building, he approached Cosby, and "during the course of the confrontation, multiple shots were fired. One of those shots struck Cosby, resulting in his death."

The Boston Globe reports that although Campbell admits that she knew Copney through his girlfriend, she maintains that she was not involved in the murder in any way. Campbell claims she was taking a final when the alleged robbery occurred, and she never lent her security pass to Copney. She also makes the distinction that she lives in Kirkland annex, not Kirkland House, which is where the shooting took place. "I have no knowledge of anything that happened, none whatsoever," Campbell said. However, Harvard has taken action against Campbell, banning her from campus and barring her from participating in graduation.

Campbell has publicly stated that she believes she is the victim of racism:

Asked why she believes Harvard administrators took the actions they did, she said she was not making an "overall claim of racism," but "I do believe I am being singled out. . . . The honest answer to that is that I'm black and I'm poor and I'm from New York and I walk a certain way and I keep my clothes a certain way," she said. "It's something that labels me as different from everyone else."


Campbell's claims are not without precedent. Last month, Harvard held a panel to look into whether campus police unfairly stopped black students because of their race, reports the Associated Press - which also puts the percent of African-American, admitted students at 11%:

In 2004, police stopped and questioned a prominent black Harvard professor who matched a robbery suspect's description. Then, in 2007, police responding to noise complaints asked leaders of black student groups holding a field day on campus to show their Harvard IDs.

Last year, a black campus worker who lost his bicycle lock key said an officer drew a gun on him after he tried to cut the lock off.


The panel found that they needed to do more work in order to create a "welcoming environment at the school."

During a phone call monitored by her attorney, Campbell told the New York Post that she is "hurt and I'm confused, for me not to be graduating is frustrating." She also said that she had never seen Cosby before, and she doesn't know why she is the only one being asked to leave campus. "This is incredibly hurtful to know it's only me that has been kicked off campus," Campbell said. "I'm feeling I'm being scapegoated and I can't defend myself."


Campbell's lawyer, Jeffrey Karp, says that Harvard has not yet disclosed their reason for barring Campbell from graduating, but he hopes he will be able to work out a deal that will allow her to participate in the ceremony. "Harvard is being cold and callous," he said. "What they have done to Chanequa is equivalent to having your house foreclosed and losing your job on the same day."

Student Says Harvard Is Wrongly Linking Her To Campus Murder [Boston Globe]
Harvard Accused Of Racism After Expelling Student Over Campus Killing [Times]
Brooklyn Harvard Student Chenequa Campbell Barred From Campus During Murder Investigation [New York Post]
Black Harvard Student: Racism Part Of Campus Ban [AP]


Hell on Heels

While I want to believe her, I feel like there has to be more to this story. If "police believe" that she loaned him her security pass, regardless of whether she allowed it or not, that suggests that there is probably evidence that the card was used to gain entry. And re: the Kirkland annex vs. Kirkland house, I can't speak for Harvard, but at my university, we also had dorms that were connected, and cards that were programmed for access to one entry could be used at all of them, so it wouldn't surprise me if this were the case.

I really hope she's innocent. But I don't think we can draw any conclusions based on what we have here.