by Tiera Lee and Francesca Sund
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writers
President Kim Schatzel announced sweeping changes to Towson University operations Thursday, hoping to address students’ concerns expressed about campus security, safety and mental health resources.
The action comes two days after an “all-university forum” that drew more than 200 students to the University Union to vent their anger about recent incidences of violence, sexual misconduct, sexual assault, harassment or intimidation, discrimination and hate at Towson University.
“I want to also thank everyone for sharing their experiences, thoughts, and concerns as well as reminding us that those terrible events impacted everyone on our campus,” Schatzel said in an email blast.
“Now it is time for us to come together to plan next steps and determine priorities,” she added, explaining that The Office of Inclusion and Institutional Equity, Office of the Provost, TUPD, Student Affairs, Student Government Association all joined in the effort over the past 48 hours.
Among the key changes, the university has:
- increased police patrols, including increased foot patrols
- added seven new positions to the Police Department staff
- extended hours for the SafeRide Shuttle
- required background checks for all employees, inclusive of contract employees
- authorized the hiring of four new counselors, with hopes of expanding through additional staffing and resources for the Counseling Center.
Schatzel said the university has begun to prepare for more education about sexual assault prevention, consent, and bystander training for students throughout their time at Towson. Work on this goal already has begun with implementation planned for the spring semester.
Transparency through communication about sexual assault and other criminal events, along with the use of trigger warnings, has also begun, she said.
In addition, Schatzel said the need for “pop-up” forums and workshops also has been addressed. Staff are working on this, she said.
By the next semester, several activities will be held, including training and education on mental health, anxiety, and the wellbeing of students, she said.
“This is not an exhaustive or complete list of all that we heard from our community,” Schatzel said, noting Tuesday’s forum is only the beginning of our collective work to prevent such terrible events from occurring at TU and improving the quality of life here.”
More than 200 enraged Towson students crowded into the University Union Tuesday night for Schatzel’s open forum in response to several sexual assault cases on campus over the past three weeks.
“Everyone in this room is legitimately hurt,” shouted student Kristian Alston. “People are saying that there is a sexual predator in The Den [eatery] like we all live there, that is literally unacceptable whether it’s true or not. The fact that that’s even a rumor is not OK.”
Alston accused Towson administrators of being more concerned with enrollment and tuition.
“Worry about the quality of your students, not the quantity,” she said.
The air in the Chesapeake Room in the Union grew thick with disappointment, anxiety and anger.
“Take accountability for the people,” begged Marlene Tubera, the Student Government Association vice president.
On Monday, Schatzel sent a campus-wide email detailing a sexual assault incident on Sunday. She said a male grabbed a woman’s breast in the Union, “and the university is providing support and assistance to the survivor.” In the same message, she said that the Towson University Police Department arrested a student for sexually assaulting another TU student in an on-campus apartment last week. He is being held in the Baltimore County Detention Center without bond.
“I also know these attacks have hurt, angered, frightened, and threatened members of our community,” the president said in the email. “These attacks affect everyone on our campus.”
Police reported that five incidents have been reported to TU police since Aug. 21.
Schatzel postponed Thursday’s Presidential Address to emphasize “an important community conversation regarding campus safety.”
As students offered intense, quick-fire comments, some bordering on hostility, student leaders Tasha’e Bell, Marvin Brown and Saydu Paye raced around the room with microphones.
Many students said they could not understand the lack of empathy from administrators and officers. Alexis Aboh, a Senator of the 99th Administration of the Student Government, addressed the police chief, Col. Charles “Joe” Herring directly.
“You aren’t showing any amount of sympathy,” Aboh said. “We pay to attend here. Do you care?”
Other students talked about not feeling safe walking back to their dorms late at night or the lack of blue light emergency phones on campus.
“Students have already said that they feel uncomfortable and that they feel unsafe on campus,” said Edmund Savage, president of In the Life at Towson.
Savage also asked school officials to keep students abreast of assault cases as they occur on campus.
“I understand we need to respect the privacy of those individuals but at the same time you need to alert our university about where you are with this investigation,” of the latest assault cases, said Savage.