The discovery of anti-Black graffiti in Heubeck-Gamble Residence Hall, and a general uptick in vandalism on campus, sparked deliberations from various stakeholders over how to improve safety at Goucher.
One move that has drawn opposition from students is the administration’s consideration of inviting Baltimore County Police (BCoPD) to patrol the Goucher Loop in their nightly rounds. At a Board of Trustees lunch last month, students held a sit-in to protest the proposal.
One trustee asked the crowd of over 80 students how the faculty felt about potential police presence, to which one student responded “to my understanding, the faculty are overwhelmingly opposed.”
Ann Duncan, Professor of American Studies and Religion and Faculty Chair, said that at a faculty meeting on February 1, Vice President of Campus Operations Erik Thompson gave an overview of new campus safety measures which included the nightly patrol of BCoPD around the campus loop.
“In that meeting, there was overwhelming opposition [to police presence],” Duncan said, “A few faculty spoke to express various concerns, both about the effectiveness of that… but also concerns about the potential for negative [police] interactions with students and faculty and staff on campus.”
Duncan said that she did not hear anyone speak out in support of police presence at that meeting, but there has not been any polling done to gather consensus. The faculty’s main concern, she said, is the students’ feelings.
“One of the overwhelming questions that the faculty have was what the students think about it,” Duncan said, “These rounds would be at a time where most faculty would not be here, and this is [the] students’ home.”
The February 15 Community Conversation was the first time many students had learned of the proposed BCoPD patrols, and Duncan said faculty in attendance intentionally did not speak so that they could hear the student perspective. Several students spoke in opposition to regular police presence during the Q&A portion of the meeting, and Duncan said “faculty were glad there was that opportunity to hear directly from the students who chose to speak.”
Duncan spoke to the many layers of this issue, and emphasized that there is “an urgency” to address incidents that have happened on campus, in the Towson area, and at nearby college campuses.
“I think there are some creative ways we could explore to increase safety,” she said, citing that there are efforts underway to get funding from Baltimore County to have more street lamps and sidewalks installed on campus.
“A lot of people understand that if we have an emergency on campus… it will be the police that respond, and it’s in all of our interest for them to know where to go and be familiar enough with the campus to quickly respond to what the issue is,” Duncan said, “We want to have a positive relationship with the police department.”
Duncan suggested alternative methods to familiarize BCoPD with Goucher’s campus, including opportunities for facilitated interaction between officers and the community such as giving them tours or inviting them to campus events.
According to Duncan, the faculty are not planning any organized response to the proposal at this time, citing President Kent Devereaux’s February 28 email responding to the sit-in as “dissuading the fears of at least some faculty.”
“I just want the students to know how deeply the faculty and staff are concerned about these issues and [are] thinking very seriously about how best to support students’… general well-being both inside and outside the classroom,” Duncan said, “We are very open…to ideas and suggestions, but also feel that it’s our responsibility to make this a safe and welcoming place to students.”