Town Hall Meeting Addresses Campus Safety
By Bekah Oester
Bowie State University President Dr. Mickey L. Burnim called a town hall meeting Oct. 9 to discuss campus safety in light of recent criminal activities on campus, including a string of car thefts, discharged firearms, fights and robberies.
Dr. Burnim opened the meeting, stating that he was worried and disturbed about the events that were threatening the BSU campus. "My greatest concern is the safety and security of over 6,000 members," he said.
Burnim went on to inform students of security measures BSU has in place as well as additional measures that are planned for the future. Current features include security cameras throughout campus, a signed co-op agreement with the Prince George's County Police Department, a 50- to 60-page emergency management plan, BEES (BSU Electronic Emergency System), and 18 sworn police officers. "One area where we will not cut is our police," Burnim said in regards to future budget cuts the university may face.
In the near future, BSU plans to install security gates to restrict campus access. Burnim said the gates are expected to be in place by this Thanksgiving.
Burnim also emphasized three of the university's core values in relationship to the student's role in crime on campus: civility, excellence, and accountability. Students and all community members, he said, need to be able to disagree in an agreeable way, have an attitude of always doing one's best, and fulfilling the moral, ethical, and community obligation to stand for what is right.
Burnim was followed by Police Chief Ernest Waiters, who gave additional details on the crimes as well as an explanation of how the alert system works and a plea for student cooperation in helping the police through cooperating with and informing them of any information they may have regarding crimes.
According to Waiters, The Jane Clery Act is what determines how emergency information is provided on campus. According to this act, when an incident is reported, multiple steps of identification must be met before sending out an alert or warning in order to avoid creating unnecessary fear. Therefore, police need assistance in investigating in order to verify an incident and determine if an alert is necessary as soon as possible.
Both the auto thefts in parking lot J on or about Sept. 9 and the alleged discharge of a firearm outside of Haley Hall on Sept. 30 are still open and under investigation, said Waiters.
Waiters also said that on Oct. 8, several fights broke out and a firearm was fired into the air. Many students who did not leave the scene as instructed by police only caused more trouble and difficulty for the police to get the situation under control. Two people were arrested, one of whom was a BSU student. Two students were robbed later that evening: one on the Holmes lawn and one at gunpoint in parking lot I.
Waiters also reminded students that the campus has a zero tolerance policy for weapons and that anyone found in possession of a weapon on campus will be immediately suspended.
The floor was then opened to students with questions and concerns. Common concerns voiced by students included the need for additional cameras, the lack of police presence during Yard Fest, and the homecoming step show and after party which administrators considered canceling in light of the recent crimes. Visitation was also suspended for student safety.
Students were encouraged to do their part in keeping the campus safe for all students by informing the Department of Public safety at 301-860-HOTT (4688) with any knowledge they have of an incident.