Anti-Black vandalism was discovered on Goucher’s campus in the final days of the Fall semester, marking the second time in six years a hate crime of that magnitude occurred on school grounds. The racist graffiti discovered in the Heubeck-Gamble residence hall targeted several Black students’ dorms.
An investigation into the hate crime is ongoing, according to a campus-wide email from Campus Operations sent out February 8. The perpetrator(s) have not been identified.
This semester’s first Community Conversation took place on February 15 and was led by President Kent Devereaux, Erik Thompson, Vice President of Campus Operations, and Tiffany Justice, Director of Campus Safety. Its objectives were to “dispel rumors,” provide an update on the general rise in vandalism on campus and gather student input on what to do moving forward, President Devereaux said.
Last semester, there was an increase in vandalism in multiple buildings, which President Devereaux said “tipped the balance” and signaled a “disturbing trend” in campus life.
Several steps intended to increase safety on campus and discourage potential instances of vandalism are underway, including installing security cameras across campus and providing students with personal security alarms, Thompson said during his presentation.
The administration is also recommending implementing Baltimore County Police (BCoPD) patrols on campus, but the decision is not final.
“Baltimore County [police] has agreed to do voluntary patrols around the loop of our campus,” Justice said, “It doesn’t give them any jurisdiction, they’re not entering our buildings… it’s simply presence as a means of a deterrent.”
This event saw the usual turnout of around 200 students, faculty, and staff attending, according to President Devereaux. The subject matter and tone is what set this meeting apart – it was lively and infused with student’s frustration towards the administration’s response to the hate crime and general instances of racism on campus.
Community conversations feature audience participation, and when the Q&A segment of the meeting began, the first topic that came up was opposition to allowing BCoPD’s campus patrols.
Students pointed out BCoPD’s pattern of stopping Black people at a higher rate, and that if police will not have jurisdiction in the buildings where incidents are occurring, it seems “performative” to allow them on campus as a solution.
“Having Baltimore County Police patrol campus at night doesn’t seem like it’s going to do anything except make students, especially students of color, feel unsafe on campus,” one student said, “The graffiti was an issue perpetrated by a student inside a dorm building.”
Students who spoke at the community conversation were overwhelmingly opposed to BCoPD presence, and encouraged administration to listen to students’ ideas of what campus safety should look like. Thompson expressed that he still remains in favor of moving forward with policing and said that he has spoken to students who “understand” administration’s goals behind the proposal.
SGA President Jeff Castro later said that to his understanding, the student body is divided on the issue, but he believes the students directly impacted by the hate crime are widely against bringing BCoPD on campus. He emphasized that SGA wants to “put the voices of Black students on a pedestal,” and have “their voices be at the forefront of our efforts in trying to find a solution.”
“The students who were affected last semester are Black students who have been historically and systemically abused by police,” Castro said.
Thompson and Justice both said that they understand why students are opposed to police presence on campus, but Thompson said that “there is not a better alternative.”
In response, students pointed to some of Goucher’s existing safety resources that are not being used to their fullest potential, including the gatehouse being unattended and the gates being open or broken consistently, a lack of relationship with and presence of Campus Safety officers, and student-led accountability programs, suggesting investment into these areas as an alternative to police.
Shamira Morgan, President of the Goucher Black Student Union (GBSU), said that she wants the Goucher community to read and understand GBSU’s list of demands from 2020, and for those who cause harm to Black students and students of color to be held accountable.
“It’s heartbreaking to see that people of color are constantly being tokenized at this institution,” said Morgan, “Goucher wants to be inclusive, but fails to provide the necessary resources to people of color.”
A recurring point made by President Devereaux, Justice, and Thompson was that they value student input and are taking student’s suggestions into account. Many students in the audience expressed they still did not feel heard, with one student telling the panel they felt these events are “lip service” since their complaints about racism on campus have been overlooked in the past.
Despite this, Castro encourages students to keep showing up to listening sessions and emailing the administrators, who will make the final call.
“There are important people at these listening sessions who are looking for student input so they know how to make decisions for the students,” Castro said.
Upcoming events include a series of listening sessions hosted by the Center of Race, Equity and Inclusion (CREI) and “Sit and Speak” events led by Campus Operations. Keep an eye out for emails from SGA and the previously listed offices for more information.
Feature image of Heubeck-Gamble Hall by Amita Chatterjee