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Towson University President initiates changes following Tuesday's public forum

Posted at 10:16 PM, Oct 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-03 22:26:30-04

TOWSON, Md. — On Thursday, the President of Towson University, Kim Schatzel released a message following a community forum on Tuesday that focused on sexual assault and mental health.

During the forum, many students expressed frustrations, stating that the school they "were sold as the safest in Maryland is now investigating its second sexual assault in as many weeks."

On Sunday night Towson University Police say a man grabbed a woman’s breast in the University Union building.

A week earlier a male student was arrested for sexually assaulting a female student in on campus apartment.

Those incidents prompted Schatzel to call for the forum.

RELATED: Towson students outraged over rash of sexual assaults

In the letter, President Schatzel states that they've "listened—and heard about the concerns felt by [their] community.

"We heard that the two areas of immediate and greatest priority were to increase campus security/safety and to increase university mental health resources and efforts to support student wellbeing."

She states that in response the university has already increased police patrols as well as an increase in foot patrols and has authorized 7 additional positions to be added to TUPD staffing.

Her full message can be read below:

On Tuesday, I convened an all-university forum for our community following the reports of two sexual assaults in late September on our campus.

I want to thank all the faculty, staff and students who came together to support each other and to stand against any and all forms 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.

Now it is time for us to come together to plan next steps and determine priorities. Over the past 48 hours numerous members of our university community have been consulted and conferred with—including The Office of Inclusion and Institutional Equity, Office of the Provost, TUPD, Student Affairs, Student Government Association—to ensure we have captured the concerns and calls for action that resulted from the forum.

We listened—and heard about the concerns felt by our community. We heard that the two areas of immediate and greatest priority were to increase campus security/safety and to increase university mental health resources and efforts to support student wellbeing.

In response, the university has already increased police patrols—including increased foot patrols—around campus that further our community policing efforts. The university has authorized 7 additional positions to be added to TUPD staffing. The recruiting and hiring of those 7 additional positions have already begun and we plan to have it completed within 45 days. Additionally, the hours for the SafeRide Shuttle will be extended starting next week, background checks for all employees—inclusive of contract employees, will all be monitored. Finally, as requested, a blue light security light pole was installed in front of 10 West on Wednesday.

The need for more counselors, more counselor diversity, increased support groups and peer-to-peer support were all frequently mentioned as priorities to increase university resources and efforts aimed at positively impacting student mental health and wellbeing. The university has authorized the hiring of 4 additional counselors and will be looking at additional staffing and other resources needs in the upcoming weeks.

Many at the forum pointed to the need for more education about sexual assault prevention, consent and bystander training for students throughout their years at TU. Work on this goal has already begun and the university plans to start implementing in the spring semester.

Improved communications about sexual assault and other criminal events on campus and the inclusion of trigger warnings, when needed, on TU and TUPD communications were also offered as priorities from many that attended the forum. Again, that work has begun as well.

Several suggested we should have more “pop-up” forums and workshops—like the one held Tuesday evening—to provide immediate support and conversation for members of our community when circumstances cause our community and its members to feel threatened or fearful. We are committed to ensuring greater responsiveness to community concerns going forward.

Several community members expressed the need for additional training and education in support of faculty surrounding issues of mental health, anxiety, and the wellbeing of students. Provost Perreault and the Division of Academic Affairs will be hosting the January Conference for faculty and those issues will be the topic of the conference.

Additional training and education in support of Housing and Residence Life staff related to issues of sexual assault and mental health was also requested. This request and the resources needed to support it are also currently being reviewed.

This is not an exhaustive or complete list of all that we heard from our community. Moreover, 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.

We are committed to moving quickly and taking immediate steps on the highest priority items. I share our community’s sense of urgency and desire to see change. I look forward to continuing this most-important work in partnership with all our students, faculty, and staff.