Harvard president calls beating of Black student “profoundly disturbing”

Harvard University President Drew G. Faust has issued a statement about the arrest of a Black student by Cambridge police, calling for the community to reflect on the incident against “the backdrop of increasingly urgent questions about race and policing in the United States.”

The brutal beating of a 21-year-old Black undergraduate student, Selorm Ohene, in a seven-minute shocking video has now gone viral.

Cambridge police officers can be seen holding Ohene down and striking him repeatedly, according to the Boston Globe. Faust called the video “profoundly disturbing” in an email sent to university affiliates Monday.

Video shows brutal beating of Black Harvard student by police “Help me, Jesus!”

“What we do know raises important issues about the relationship between police and the communities they serve, student health resources, and the manner in which University units operate with each other and with our partners in the community,” she wrote.

“We will work with City officials to address concerns members of our community have raised about interactions with the Cambridge Police Department,” Faust continued. “We will be asking questions of ourselves, recognizing that the responsibility rests with the University to establish the conditions of trust necessary for effective campus policing and the delivery and coordination of effective health care.”

Harvard’s Black Law Students Association released a statement following the incident and said the police were not giving a correct version of what occurred. Some of the students say they witnessed the event and said it was an unprovoked attack on Ohene.

Police claim that Ohene was non-compliant, naked and had taken drugs.

In the video Ohene can be heard screaming: “Help me, Jesus! Help me, Jesus!” The police struck him a number of times while on the ground.

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The 21-year-old student was later charged with exposure, disorderly conduct, assault, resisting arrest, and assault and battery on ambulance personnel, according to The Globe. A police report says Ohene was struck five times in the torso. He was taken to a local hospital after spitting up blood. Two officers were treated as well for minor injuries.

Faust said the school still does “not yet know all the facts” but the “necessary reviews have been completed.”

Moving forward she vows to continue working on making the Cambridge community inclusive.

“Ultimately, this is about building a community where people from all backgrounds and life experiences can come together confident in their ability to do their best work in a safe, supportive, and constructive environment,” she wrote.

CORRECTION: An earlier draft of this story incorrectly identified Harvard University President Drew G. Faust as saying the incident was “a brutal instance of police violence.” She did not make this statement.