A Harvard Law School student was arrested after allegedly assaulting a fellow HLS student in a homophobic attack last month, according to a Harvard University Police report.
According to the report, HLS student Naod N. Nega approached another student outside Langdell Hall on the afternoon of Jan. 23 and repeatedly punched the student, calling him a homophobic slur.
Nega has been charged with assault and battery for the purpose of intimidation — a hate crime under Massachusetts state law. He pleaded not guilty to the charge at a Jan. 27 arraignment.
Nega’s attorney, Alice L. Purple, declined a request for comment.
According to the police report, a witness believed Nega to be either under the influence of narcotics or off medication and reported Nega was in possession of a baseball bat.
The police report also states that Nega, who is currently on a leave of absence from HLS, was previously involved in multiple incidents involving “aggressive and violent behavior.”
HLS spokesperson Jeff Neal declined to comment on Nega’s current status at the school, citing privacy laws.
Cambridge Police Department spokesperson Jeremy C. Warnick wrote in an email that CPD officers served a warrant for Nega’s arrest at a local hospital, where Nega was involuntarily transported after the initial assault.
A press release issued by CPD last week said a Cambridge male assaulted at least five staff members while at a local hospital. Warnick confirmed in an email that the press release referenced Nega.
“The male was initially sectioned to a local hospital on Monday, January 23rd after he was threatening students on campus with a baseball bat, used racial slurs, punched a college student in an unprovoked attack, and intimidated them due their sexual orientation,” the CPD press release reads.
At his arraignment, Nega was ordered to undergo treatment and evaluation at Bridgewater State Hospital and will return to court for a status hearing on Feb. 16.
The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office did not respond to requests for comment.
Monica E. Monroe, HLS assistant dean for community engagement, equity, and belonging, and Stephen L. Ball, HLS assistant dean and dean of students, wrote in an email sent to HLS students roughly nine hours after the attack that HUPD found no “immediate threat” to campus.
“We condemn unconditionally all violence, hatred, and homophobia, and will continue to work to foster a campus in which members of our Law School and University community feel welcome, safe, and included,” they wrote in the email.
The deans’ email referred to Nega as “an individual affiliated with HLS,” though some students said they were upset with what they viewed as a lack of specificity in the statement.
“We have the right to know that it was another student who was involved,” said Gabrielle L. Crofford, who serves as campus advocacy chair for Lambda, an LGBTQ+ affinity group at the Law School.
“Our perspective is that the more vague that they are, the more students are going to be stressed,” she added. “And not just queer students, because everyone’s wondering, ‘Are we safe on campus right now?’”
“No one should be harmed, harassed, or discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” wrote HLS Dean John F. Manning ’82 in a statement. “We will continue to work to support the rights and dignity of the LGBTQ+ community, and to ensure that everyone feels safe and welcome on our campus.”
Crofford said the assault is part of a larger pattern of homophobia on the Law School’s campus, citing violent threats emailed to LGBTQ+ Harvard affiliates in August 2022.
Three days after the assault, anti-abortion advocacy group Harvard Law Students for Life hosted Notre Dame law professor Sherif Girgis — a prominent opponent of same-sex marriage. Crofford said the event made her feel less safe in the context of the assault.
Harvard Law Students for Life and Girgis did not respond to requests for comment.
Neal declined to comment on criticisms of the Law School’s response to the assault or broader claims about homophobia on the school’s campus.
Lambda member Sean V. McDonough said HLS has provided a forum for prominent conservatives, a stance they said is at odds with the school’s aim “to be supportive of queer students.”
Crofford said the climate on campus contributed to the assault.
“Someone just got attacked — so we don’t need to ask questions of, ‘What does letting homophobic thought on campus lead to?’ This is what it leads to,” she said. “It leads to people getting punched and called slurs on our campus.”
The Law School hosted a meeting on Feb. 2 for students to discuss the assault with Monroe, Ball, and HLS Campus Safety.
Crofford called for institutional change at the Law School in the wake of the assault.
“We need to have a culture change because ultimately, the culture at HLS right now is not one that protects and values queer students,” Crofford said. “It’s one that protects and values concepts of academic freedom.”
—Staff writer Jo B. Lemann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Jo_Lemann.
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—Staff writer Neil H. Shah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @neilhshah15.
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