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Rally at Towson University over racial tensions

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Posted at 12:28 PM, Apr 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-22 17:52:34-04

Students and other members of the Towson University community rallied Friday afternoon to draw attention to racial tension at the school.

The rally comes two days after university President Dr. Kim Schatzel issued a statement calling for a full review of the process through which students and others can report racial incidents. 

RELATED: Towson U. president wants review of hate/bias reporting process

According to Schatzel’s statement, a student made “racist and disruptive” comments to an employee in the café in the Liberal Arts building on April 5.

University police investigated incident, but determined it did not rise to the level of a crime. An ongoing investigation is underway by the Office of Student Conduct, Schatzel said.

Students also said in a recent incident that someone defaced a collective message on the chalkboard in Freedom Square addressing racial tensions on campus.

“We were just stating how we feel and they had the audacity and the nerve to draw Satan rules Towson,” said Antoine Dupree, a Towson University student.

On Friday, Dr. Deb Moriarty, vice president for Student Affairs, released a statement calling for an open dialogue. 

"Our community is in pain, and we need to come together. A unity rally will be held today at Freedom Square at noon to show our commitment to diversity and inclusiveness and especially our solidarity with the students, faculty and staff who have felt marginalized and targeted by the events that have occurred over the past two weeks," Moriarty said. "Freedom Square is a designated public space where we can come together for an open dialogue as a community. I hope you will join me as we unite to take a stand that hate and bias will not be tolerated at Towson University."

Several students who spoke at the rally were very emotional and said their reports of racial bias and discrimination have been ignored. They also expressed concerns over personal safety.

“I'm thinking of my safety, I'm thinking of being vigilant, I feel like I have to be on my toes,” said Josephine Hill, a Towson University student.

Various Towson faculty members admitted there's more they can do and vowed to work with students in coming up with a solution.

“Some of our procedures have not worked well, and we’ve heard from students over the last few weeks. So, we are working very hard to rectify that broken system and specifically the hate bias report process,” said Santiago Solis, the Towson University assistant vice-president of student affairs for diversity.

In her letter, President Schatzel said the university will try to improve response times in addressing hate/bias incidents, will communicate better with victims, publicize hate/bias procedures throughout the community, and increase transparency when a hate/bias incident is considered a criminal offense.

“I know that she's genuine about how she feels, but at the same time I don't need a letter, I need action,” Dupree said.

“I thought it was very politically correct. I want answers, I want three times that a student makes a complaint that you should be removed from this campus,” said Veronica Canarte, a Towson University student.

Students expressed obvious frustrations at the rally, but Hill also said she’s optimistic that meaningful change can and will be made in the future.

“I'm hopeful because I do love Towson. I work here, I’m getting my degree from here, I feel like in this moment it's awakening all of us because activism is important and it shows that education inside and outside the classroom can really catapult us to be successful leaders in society,” said Hill.

According to university faculty, big changes will be happening soon. The plan to do the majority of work over the summer with the goal of implementing new policies by this fall. They'll also be educating new students at orientation that hateful language will not be tolerated on campus.

 

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