A onetime student at the University of Hartford admitted licking her roommate’s dining utensils and secretly smearing bodily fluids on her backpack — a “deeply disturbing” case of alleged bullying that exploded on social media, prompted a message from the Connecticut school’s president and hate crime charges filed on Wednesday.
Freshman Chennel Rowe posted a 103-minute Facebook Live video Monday about her roommate nightmare. Rowe said she had felt “unwanted in [her] own room” since being randomly assigned to bunk with Brianna Rae Brochu in late August. After moving in, Rowe said, she started getting sick, including throat pain that ultimately led her to see a doctor.
Rowe said she had requested a room change and had begun moving her belongings to another location on Oct. 17, when she was approached by one of her student neighbors who spotted “very concerning posts” on Brochu’s Instagram account, according to police reports obtained by the Hartford Courant.
One of the posts — which has since been deleted but was captured via screenshot by Rowe — appeared to confirm Rowe’s suspicions: Brochu had been covertly harassing her and tampering with her personal items for more than a month.
“Finally did it ya girl got rid of her roommate!” Rowe said, recalling Brochu’s post. “After 1½ months of spitting in her coconut oil, putting moldy clam dip in her lotions, rubbing used tampons [on] her backpack, putting her toothbrush where the sun doesn’t shine and so much more I can finally say goodbye to Jamaican Barbie.”
Brochu, who was arrested Saturday on charges of third-degree criminal mischief and second-degree breach of peace, has admitted licking Rowe’s plate, fork and spoon, as well as smearing her own bodily fluid on Rowe’s backpack, but denied the other actions she referenced on Instagram. She told West Hartford police that those statements were lies and a way to “appear funny” online.
Brochu, of Harwinton, claimed she had been reacting to a “hostile environment” created by Rowe, who allegedly posted Snapchat videos of Brochu snoring. Brochu also requested a room change last month but was unsuccessful, according to the Courant.
Rowe’s video prompted a nationwide response on social media, with many users posting in support of Rowe and calling for #JusticeforJazzy. (Rowe’s Facebook account identifies her as Jazzy Rowe, but a University of Hartford email directory lists her as Chennel Rowe.)
“I can’t believe someone would do this,” one Twitter post read. “Such a despicable human being. Sorry you had to go through that girl.”
Others on social media characterized the allegations as “absolutely disgusting and atrocious,” while some said Brochu could’ve killed Rowe by contaminating her lotion with mold.
The incident and its subsequent explosion on social media also prompted the university’s president to address students Wednesday, saying that the “deeply upsetting” incident doesn’t reflect the values of the school. President Greg Woodward also addressed the “accusations of racism” raised by Rowe and others in connection with the incident.
“Acts of racism, bias, bullying, or other abusive behaviors will not be tolerated on this campus,” Woodward said in a statement. “I pledge to do everything in my power to work with our community to address related concerns together.”
Woodward has also met with Rowe and has been in talks with her family.
“We will continue to offer support and assistance to her, as well as any other student that feels threatened, victimized, or uncomfortable on our campus,” his statement continued. “Let me repeat: racism and hatred will not be tolerated on this campus. Period.”
A judge ordered Brochu to stay off the University of Hartford’s campus during a brief court appearance on Wednesday, the Hartford Courant reports. Police in West Hartford also requested that Brochu face hate crime charges of intimidation based on bigotry or bias in addition to the breach of peace and criminal mischief counts she faces. Brochu did not comment during the hearing and her case was transferred to Hartford Superior Court, where she’s expected to return on Nov. 15, the Courant reports.
Woodward also released a second statement Wednesday on the “deeply disturbing situation,” saying Brochu is no longer a student at the 6,700-student university.
“She will not be returning to the institution,” Woodward said in a statement. “There has been an outpouring of concern for the victim of these acts from across the University and the country. In my meeting with her yesterday, I reiterated my personal commitment to ensuring she has all available personal and academic resources the University can provide.”
Rowe, who did not return a message from The Post seeking comment Wednesday, said she believes the incident would’ve been handled much differently if she had victimized Brochu.
“The fact that I’m black and my old roommate was white … If the roles was switched, I want to know if it would be handled the same way, right?” Rowe said during her Facebook Live video. “Because I damn well know it wouldn’t.”