Branford College Master Stephen Smith allegedly struck a Jonathan Edwards freshman with a plastic baseball bat early Tuesday morning while the freshman was participating in an annual Men of JE event.
The freshman, Matthew Brimer ’09, said he had been participating in an annual noise-making run, known as the Coalition of Midnight Assholes, organized by the Men of JE, which is, according to one of its leaders, a society of JE students that organizes acts of mischief. Brimer said Smith confronted the group immediately after they entered the main Branford courtyard and began shouting at Brimer and hitting him with a plastic baseball bat.
Yale Police Department Lt. Michael Patten confirmed the report of a physical altercation in Branford, but said he could not confirm who had been involved. He said the YPD is currently investigating the incident.
According to Brimer, Smith also grabbed from him a megaphone that had been duct-taped to his hand. He said he was shocked but not physically hurt by the incident.
“I’m completely honest, the point of what we were doing was to be annoying and cause noise, but Master Smith’s actions were just completely beyond the realm of appropriate action,” he said. “I don’t mean to over-sensationalize this — I’m not physically injured in any way — it’s more the fact that I was physically assaulted at all by a master.”
Smith was unavailable for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Brimer said he met Tuesday evening with Smith and Jonathan Edwards College Master Gary Haller. At the meeting with Smith, he said, the two apologized to each other. Brimer said he did not want to file charges against Smith.
“I apologized for being noisy … and he apologized for his actions; he said that he had crossed the line — [those] were his words,” he said. “Right now, Master Haller and Master Smith are dealing with whatever next course of action they decide to pursue. I told both of them I am relinquishing it from my hands.”
Haller confirmed that he had met with Brimer and Smith but declined to comment further on the incident or on the content of the meeting. He said he was unsure as of yet what the procedure would be for investigating the incident.
“One of my students … has reported and made accusations against a master, and I’m taking that seriously,” Haller said.
A petition titled “Punish Master Smith” was circulated via e-mail early Tuesday morning, but Brimer said he was not the petition’s creator and is angry that the petition was created.
“I had meetings all yesterday with Master Haller and Master Smith and everything, and I don’t need to be doing this now,” he said. “I don’t want my reputation tarnished or my name being defamed by people saying [I created it].”
The petition had over 40 signatures by Wednesday afternoon. Some students used the signature as an opportunity to rebuke the petition, which had been circulated from an anonymous Google mail account. An e-mail sent to the account was not returned.
Dani Lovell ’06, a former president of the JE College Council and a member of the junta that runs the Men of JE, said that COMA runs typically begin shortly before midnight in front of Farnam and that the 40 to 60 students on the run process around Old Campus with noise makers, occasionally venturing into Saybrook and Branford as well. Prior COMA runs had been broken up by the YPD, she said, but had generally been under control.
“When people get upset with us, they call the cops on us and so we all dissolve and talk about how great we are and go home,” she said. “But in this case the way things were dealt with were not good.”
William Wilson ’09, who saw Monday’s alleged attack, said that on last semester’s COMA run, Saybrook College Dean Paul McKinley confiscated a horn from one participant, but that there were no other problems.