WATERVILLE — Colby College President William “Bro” Adams approached the microphone Tuesday afternoon.
He looked out at a sea of several hundred students on the academic quad in front of Miller Library. It was his turn to speak at the “student walkout” rally, after impassioned accounts and speeches from a dozen students about Easter Sunday morning’s arrest of three students on charges of assault and criminal trespassing.
Organizers of Tuesday’s event said police and college security used excessive force and that the treatment received by one of those arrested may have been racially motivated.
Most students wore an article of red clothing in reference to how one student had been pinned “face-down in a pool of his own blood.” Red also seemed to equally symbolize the frustration students felt toward the college for its handling of the case.
Students carried signs that said, “Would this Happen to a White Student?” and “Define Student Rights,” among others.
“We’re all outraged by the events of this weekend,” said Spencer Crim, 21, a senior and one of about a dozen students who spoke about the arrests.
Police from Waterville and three neighboring communities, plus sheriff’s deputies and state troopers, went Sunday to campus on a call for additional police support. Authorities say two drunken students were arrested after they interfered with efforts to help a student who was ill.
Arrested were Jacob Roundtree, 21, of St. Albans, N.Y., and Ozzy Ramirez, 22, of Bronx, N.Y., who both were charged with assault and criminal trespass.
Later Sunday, Michael Talarico, 21, of Arlington, Mass., was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct in a separate campus incident.
As Adams spoke at the rally Tuesday — for the first time publicly since the incident — he aimed to temper students’ anger with this promise: The college will find out what happened. In recent days, eyewitnesses have released a partial video showing the confrontation between students and campus security and local police.
“I hear and I understand the emotions and feelings that have been expressed here today and previously,” Adams said. “We’re listening; I hear you.”
Acknowledging that he shared students’ feelings of being “profoundly upset” about what took place, Adams also said that he and Colby administration officials were “committed to a thorough and fair investigation into what happened.”
Adams encouraged anyone — students, staff and faculty — to contact the dean’s office to contribute testimony and other evidence related to the case. Ultimately, he said, a third party would be brought in to evaluate the results of the investigation and “make an independent determination about what happened.”
Adams also pledged to personally host an informational forum on campus — either tonight or Thursday night — so the Colby community could ask detailed questions of security and senior administration officials.
Also speaking on behalf of the administration at Tuesday’s rally was James S. Terhune, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, who said the incident “is deeply disturbing and deeply distressing.”
“We are doing all we can to get to the bottom of this,” he said.
As for a list of demands from Colby United, the students who organized the rally, administration officials did not respond. The demands included a public apology from Adams, suspension of the involved security officers and financial assistance to the arrested students.
Crim said students are committed to resolving the issue by May 8, the end of classes.
“Our move for action and change will not end on that date,” he said.
As Adams finished speaking, two voices boomed from the crowd: “You need to apologize!” “Where’s the apology?”
A Colby United member stepped up to the microphone and asked students to be respectful.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.