Students gathered at the “What’s Goin’ On Forum” Thursday in Norse Commons to address the instances of fighting in the residential village, safety, and the residential climate.
The forum was organized by the Black Women’s Organization, the Black Men’s Organization, Black United Students, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated. A panel of faculty and administrators helped to answer concerns and to work with students.
The foremost concern was unwanted guests on campus. Unwanted guests were said to have played a role in the altercations and instances of campus crimes.
Sophmore Monique Johnson , the vice president of the Black Women’s Organization, said a man threatened her with a gun on campus.
She said the incident was reported and well documented, but people have seen the man regularly return to campus.
She said that she had been to Dean Kelso’s, Dr. Mark Shanley’s, and many other offices.
She said the only intelligible responses were received from Todd Duncan who, despite overcrowding in the dorms, provided her with a room change, and the African American Student Affairs Office, which gave her moral support and guidance.
She said she has since been assaulted and harassed on campus by the attacker’s girlfriend, but she is reporting these incidents to the Highland Heights Police Department at the request of the County Prosecutor’s Office.
Both Kelso and Shanley affirmed that there was a response to Johnson’s appeals. They recognized that it might not be the response she is looking for.
Kelso said that his response was in the form of a letter of sanction in the offender’s file that he is not permitted to speak about, because of their rights to privacy.
Kelso and Butler said they were committed to keeping the man off the campus and that he has a warrant for his arrest.
They asked students to inform them immediately if they encounter him.
Butler said that the Prosecutor had given Johnson bad advice in reporting to the Highland Heights Police.
Freshman Moon Roberts pointed to Kelso’s assurances.
“I’m sure that if she felt like the problem was going to be addressed she wouldn’t have gone to someone outside of your office,” he said.
Students acknowledged the increased nighttime police presence at the Woodcrest Apartments, but were upset that it did not extend to the other areas of the residential village.
Butler said that Residential Life now pays the overtime for an off duty officer to specifically guard Woodcrest’s fire lane from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. He said that he has a minimum of two officers who patrol the entire campus during that time as well.
Students suggested a program where residents could volunteer to take shifts sitting at a dormitory entrance at night and to patrol the residential village as a citizen watch.
Duncan was excited about the idea “If we could have that kind of motivation, that type of activism… If students want to get involved and make their community better, then I’m here for them,” he said.
He also offered the idea of becoming a residential assistant as a way for interested individuals to make an impact on safety.
Sophmore Residential Assistant Renesha Martin fought allegations that “[Black R.A.’s] are trying to be everyone’s friend and not doing [their] jobs.”
At one fight Martin says she had to control the crowd and try to get witnesses to fill out reports. She said that because no one was willing to fill out reports, one of the fight’s participants started another fight.
Shanley stressed the need for students to immediately make reports like these. He said that they still do not have all the names of those involved in the fighting. Several students agreed that these reports are vital to safety.
Brandon Hill, co-president of Students Together Against Racism, spoke about student attitudes he felt were contributing to a negative atmosphere in the residential village. He noted that students refer to predominantly white Norse Hall as the “suburbs” and the Woodcrest apartments, where many black students reside, as the “ghetto”.
Many students indicated that these labels are offensive. They agreed that they should strive to eliminate them.
Students focused on the reasons behind the stereotypical labels. The most obvious was the segregation on campus.
Duncan answered questions as to why the residential housing is so segregated, “There is not a systematic bias or prejudice or approach from University Housing to segregate students by race,” he said.
He indicated that the only factors on housing assignment are student preference and when a housing application is received by the staff.
He referred to at least two instances in the housing applications that demonstrate their commitment to non-discrimination.
Excited students continued to assume responsibility for the residential community with ideas to quell the fighting with positive reinforcement. They suggested pulling students into existing programs, building new ones, and setting a good example of engagement in community. Students and faculty suggested ways of fostering self responsibility by looking to role models and community.
Michelle Peterson, Director of African-American Student Affairs, offered to discuss and develop the solutions through her office.
Dr. Michael Washington, Director of the Afro-American studies program, encouraged students to take the general studies courses which relate to the African American experience and declare a minor in African American Studies, “to send a message to the university that students are interested in African- American culture so the university will hire more conscious black professors who can create that positive reinforcement.”
Hill called on white students to get involved, saying they have a responsibility to the community.
Junior Cara Cosby, President of Black United Students agreed. She expressed disappointment that white students she invited from S.G.A. and her classes did not attend.
“This is not just a black issue, because white students are afraid of us,” she said. “They hear about the fighting and they are afraid of us. White students need to see all of the positive black students who are trying to make a change.”