At least 80 students peacefully entered a closed-door Board of Trustees Lunch in the Mary Fisher Dining Hall on Friday to protest the administration’s proposal of bringing Baltimore County Police (BCoPD) to patrol the campus Loop.
The sit-in comes after last semester’s spike in vandalism, including a hate crime involving racist graffiti, led officials to implement several new security measures as well as propose intermittent police presence. Students felt previous events such as February’s Community Conversation, “Sit & Speak” sessions, and the Center for Race, Equity and Inclusion’s (CREI) listening sessions were unproductive and inaccessible, as they took place during class and meal times, according to protest organizers.
“One of the goals of the protest on Friday was to have student voices be heard,” said Erica Manson ‘23, one of the sit-in organizers, “It was decided that we should conduct a sit-in in order to reach those who President Devereaux answers to.”
“It’s hard to dismiss something when it’s brought right to your attention,” said Manson.
Students gathered at Alice’s patio where they went over their list of demands to President Kent Devereaux and other administrators. Just after noon, the group walked to Mary Fisher, where they swiped into the dining hall and entered the Fish Bowl room where the trustees’ lunch meeting was held.
Photos above by Mich Rouse ’24: Brynn Mattsen explains list of demands to student-protesters (top left), students gather on the Alice’s patio (top right), students head from the Athenaeum to Mary Fisher (right middle, bottom left), and students prepare to enter the Fish Bowl in the dining hall (bottom right).
The room was almost unrecognizable, with its usual furniture rearranged and decorated. Tables donned sleek black table cloths and vases with fresh flowers, signifying the importance of the event and its attendees, as well as a disconnect between everyday students and trustees.
Students entered the Fish Bowl and sat at tables with trustees to talk to them about what happened last semester and administration’s proposal of bringing BCoPD on campus for regular patrols of the loop. Other important attendees included President Kent Devereaux, Vice President of Campus Operations Erik Thompson, Director of Campus Safety Tiffany Justice, and SGA President Jeff Castro.
“The individual and group conversations I had [with trustees] were definitely productive,” said Manson, “I felt that they received our points, even if they didn’t agree with what we were saying.”
Bridging this divide and making the trustees, a powerful decision-making entity, aware of the student perspective was one of the main goals behind conducting a sit-in at this event, said Brynn Mattsen ‘23, who helped organize the action and served as a student spokesperson.
Above photos by Mich Rouse: Students discuss demands with VP of Campus Operations Erik Thompson (top left), sign in Mary Fisher pointing the way to the Board of Trustees meeting (top right), students are barred entry at one set of doors by Thompson (middle right), students engage in conversation with Trustees present at the lunch meeting (bottom row).
“Our other goals were listed with our demands,” said Mattsen, “students do not want regular police presence on campus… the actionable item of this last goal is the poll we proposed in our list of demands.”
The list, available to view at the bottom of this article, contained several points, including having more “transparency” from administration regarding new campus safety measures and increasing student involvement in the decision making process.
Students also demanded that by March 3, the administration send out “an anonymous digital poll” to the student body via email to essentially vote on BCoPD presence. Some specifications of the list included it be created with student input, provide details of what the proposed police presence would look like, and that the results of the poll “be the deciding factor” in whether to bring BCoPD on campus, with voting concluding on March 17.
After speaking with trustees for approximately 30 minutes, students surrounded the room’s perimeter and Mattsen and other organizers read demands aloud to the room. They asked President Devereaux to agree to creating a binding poll by the conditions listed in the document.
Ultimately President Devereaux could not agree to the exact terms listed, saying a poll would have an “abysmal” response rate, but compromises were made. Tensions in the room escalated as a result – students called him out for not meeting with all the victims of last semester’s hate crime and expressed they felt he was dismissive in his tone towards the student protestors, with one student referring to him as a “brick wall.”
Trustees also chimed into the discussion to give their opinions on what students were asking and attempted to offer potential solutions.
Photos above by Mich Rouse: Students read demands aloud to attendees (top left), President Devereaux responds to student’s interjections (top right), students share their feelings regarding lack of support from the administration and arguments against police presence (bottom row).
“I was made aware that President Devereaux agreed to send out the poll,” said Manson of the protests’ impact, “This poll will be non-binding in that it will just be one of the variables in the decision making process to bring police on campus.”
As of right now, there is no clear timeframe on when the poll will be sent out or when administrators hope to make their final decision by.
“I trust that President Devereaux will put out a response in the upcoming week,” said Mattsen, “I expect him to confirm the agreements he made with us on Friday and commit to detailed next steps to meet them.”
Mattsen acknowledged that they do not speak for all students or organizers, but said that they hoped the sit-in reminded students of “how much power and capability” they have. This action was organized less than 24 hours before the luncheon, and over 80 students — approximately 10% of the undergraduate population, showed up to participate.
“While I believe that these goals were important to voice, I personally hope that as we move forward we center BIPOC students’ voices who would be disproportionately affected by police presence on campus,” said Manson, citing a January 11 email from President Devereaux that stated Goucher is now 44% BIPOC students, a figure that has doubled since 2010.
“Police presence will undermine the college’s supposed values and commitment to DEIJ: diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice,” said Manson.
Photos above by Mich Rouse: Students engage in conversation with trustees.
Images above by Mich Rouse: President Devereaux responds to list of demands (top left), Thompson discusses with students (top right), students engage in conversation with a trustee (right middle), a trustee interjects and addresses the whole room (left middle), administrative officials discuss in the corner (bottom left), and crowd of students occupy the room, sitting with trustees (bottom right).
Feature image of several students discussing with President Devereaux by Mich Rouse.