Although Binghamton University released only scant information about the stabbing death Friday of a professor -- and asked faculty members to refrain from talking to the media -- the school was critical Tuesday of what it claimed was inaccurate information being circulated.
"We know for a fact that some of it is not accurate," said BU President Lois B. DeFleur at a news conference.
On the day of the stabbing, BU issued a press release stating that Dr. Richard Antoun had died and an individual was in custody, but declined to name the suspect or describe his relationship with the professor. When university police were questioned about the incident, they said all information was being disseminated by BU spokeswoman Gail Glover.
Meanwhile, the names of the victim and the alleged assailant were appearing online, in text messages and e-mails.
BU does not release the name of individuals accused of a crime until they are arraigned, Glover said. Al-Zahrani was not arraigned until the early morning hours on Saturday.
In addition, Glover said, when an investigation is ongoing, BU will not give details to individuals other than law enforcement. The investigation is currently being handled by the Broome County District Attorney's Office.
DeFleur met with media outlets Tuesday, four days after anthropology professor emeritus Richard T. Antoun was stabbed to death, allegedly by graduate student Abdulsalam S. Al-Zahrani in BU's Science I building.
While DeFleur said she didn't have specific incidents of inaccurate information, she said investigators told her that information circulating among individuals and the media was erroneous.
Glover said one false report was that Antoun was on a three-person panel that would evaluate Al-Zahrani's dissertation. The Press & Sun-Bulletin reported Antoun was a member of that panel based on information provided by D. Andrew Merriwether, the anthropology department director of graduate studies.
No other examples were cited Tuesday, but BU said it would do its best to keep inaccurate information from spreading.
Al-Zahrani is charged with second-degree murder and is in the Broome County jail without bail.
According to professor Joshua Price, Al-Zahrani approached him less than 30 minutes before the stabbing, complaining of financial troubles and seeking a transfer into the philosophy, interpretation and cultural doctoral program that Price directs.
Earlier this week, a subpoena was issued for BU's records on Al-Zahrani, DeFleur said. Federal law prohibits the university from divulging his academic records without a subpoena, she said, adding nothing in his records was problematic.
"He followed the typical patterns of most graduate students," she said.
Following Antoun's death, BU professors requested information on how to deal with students that appear to be having difficulties, DeFleur said. The guidelines, which were on BU's Web site prior to last week's incident, include information on what to look for and what do when they believe a student is in trouble.
Except for clinical professors, most are not trained to identify individuals who are in distress, DeFleur said.
"To predict individual acts is virtually impossible," she said.
According to Al-Zahrani's roommates, BU post-graduate students Souleymane Sakho and Luis Pena, the cultural anthropology student was argumentative, confrontational and once threatened Sakho with a knife, asking him if he was "afraid of death." Despite his behavior, however, the Saudi national never said anything to them about Antoun.
Three days before Antoun was killed, Sakho said he spoke to Price, and later BU psychologist Donald Glauber, about Al-Zahrani's threatening and irrational behavior. He said he was told to avoid his roommate and then later, via e-mail, Glauber told him there was nothing to worry about because Al-Zahrani had promised to move out in January and the police and landlord were informed of the situation.
Once some time has passed, DeFleur said the university will conduct an analysis of the response to the incident to see if there is room for improvement. BU has emergency plans for a variety of incidents and its common practice that once a plan is put into effect, it is later investigated to see if improvements can be made.
"I'm very proud of all the members of our university community that responded to this," DeFleur said.
BU's incident management team and first responders were heavily involved following the stabbing and were responsible for the text alert sent to subscribers which stated a suspect was in custody. DeFleur said she was at a meeting away from BU when she got the text.
"At that time, he (Antoun) was still alive," she said.
It is unknown if Antoun died on his way to Wilson Regional Medical Center or while he was at the Johnson City hospital. The nature of the injuries he suffered also is unknown.
For now, the university community, including current and former students and professors, are trying to find peace with the shock they now feel.
"It just cuts into each of us very deeply," DeFleur said. "We're all trying to deal with it."