Robert Wahl, an adjunct lecturer of sociology and criminology at Penn State, pleaded guilty to one count of harassment Sept. 17, according to court documents.
On Sept. 1, Penn State University Police and Public Safety arrested Wahl after an employee reported being harassed in the Willard Building, according to the university crime log.
Bystanders at the scene of the incident allegedly heard a man repeatedly yell “help me” from the connecting corridor on the second floor between the Willard Building and the new Bellisario Media Center. According to witnesses, a man was lying on the floor, and Wahl walked away from him.
As people rushed toward the man on the floor, others said they saw Wahl walk toward the stairwell. Bystanders confirmed Wahl said he pushed the other man out of the bathroom for not wearing a mask.
According to Penn State spokesperson Lisa Powers, the victim — a Penn State employee — was transported to Mount Nittany Medical Center for evaluation.
Wahl was charged with harassment, and his offenses include simple/other assault but not aggravated disorderly conduct, according to the university crime log.
He is currently on paid administrative leave, according to Penn State spokesperson Wyatt DuBois.
In an email sent to faculty members in the African Studies program, Interim Director of African Studies Sinfree Makoni alleged the victim was "racially attacked" by Wahl for "not wearing his mask properly."
On Sept. 9, State College's chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People released a "call to action" statement, alleging the physical assault that occurred in the Willard Building was "race-related aggression."
"In our view, Penn State University is trying to cover up yet another instance of systemic racism," the State College NAACP said in its statement. "Despite the physical and emotional injuries sustained by the victim, Wahl has only been charged with simple/other assault, according to the university crime log — tantamount to a slap on the wrist."
The State College NAACP alleged the victim was also "verbally abused" by Wahl and said it is "outraged" at the "callous handling" of the matter by Penn State's administration and University Police.
"We hold Penn State and university police accountable for the casual handling of this matter," the State College NAACP said in its statement. "We demand that Wahl receive the appropriate charges for his actions, that he be removed from paid administrative leave immediately and terminated."
State College's 3/20 Coalition also released a statement regarding the physical assault, calling it a "racist attack."
Despite the university’s claims to “its ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion,” 3/20 Coalition Secretary Melanie Morrison said she believes the commitments are “performative and hollow if the university is unwilling to adequately punish anti-Black and racist actions and keep racist abusers off its own payroll.”
The 3/20 Coalition formed after Osaze Osagie, a 29-year-old Black man, was killed by a State College police officer on March 20, 2019 when three officers arrived at Osagie's apartment to serve a mental health warrant.
Osagie, who had autism and a history of schizophrenia, allegedly ran at the officers with a knife. After an unsuccessful attempt to deploy a Taser on him, he was allegedly shot by Officer M. Jordan Pieniazek.
The three officers involved in the shooting have not been charged.
"No charges related to racial motivation have been filed, and there is no additional information to share on this case," Powers said of the assault in the Willard Building.
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