HAF Urges Investigation of Assault at Penn State as Hate Crime

Washington, D.C. (December 9, 2015) - Leaders of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) are urging local law enforcement in State College, Pa., to investigate an assault on an Indian student at Penn State University as a hate crime.

According to reports, the assailant, Nicholas Tavella, 19, admitted to assaulting the student because of his appearance. Tavella, who admitted drinking and grabbing the student, said he “probably said something racist,” but did not remember.

Tavella was charged with ethnic intimidation, a felony, along with numerous misdemeanor charges. However, Murali Balaji, HAF’s director of education and a Penn State alumnus, said a hate crime investigation is warranted given the climate of xenophobia.

“It’s clear that the victim was targeted based on his appearance, which is something the assailant admitted to,” said Balaji. “This has to be prosecuted as a hate crime. College campuses should not become places in which minority students should fear being targeted based on their religion, race, or national origin.”

HAF will be contacting Penn State officials to see what steps can be taken to promote pluralism and mutual respect on the campus.