Ariel Hall & Tamia Gregory
On Thursday, January 19, 2023, at 6:00 p.m. students, faculty, and a panel gathered in the Education and Humanities Theatre to speak about the current state of the campus. President Tony Allen sent an email announcing this Town Hall the previous evening after a student-organized protest demanding change within the Public Safety department and their negligent handling of sexual assault cases took place.
On the panel were President Allen, Dawn Mosely, the Associate President of Marketing at the university, director of counseling Dr. Michael Munk, Chief Cummings, Senior vice-president Antonio Boyd and other faculty members. Students Naomi Rivers and Dynah Mosley were on the panel to be a voice for students as the university president spoke with them the day before to discuss an action plan to implement changes on campus. Student leaders Dave Hawkins and Rita Williams, SGA’s President and treasurer, respectively, sat alongside the president of the God Brothers Nasai Oliver on stage as mediators, translating students’ frustrations.
The EH Theatre was packed with students ready to speak out or share their experiences, thoughts, and solutions to increase safety on DSU’s campus. Some students even stood against the wall or sat on the stairs to listen and offer one another support.
To protect the privacy of those who would be sharing stories regarding their sexual assault, the audience was asked to not record or go live during this Town Hall, and a journalist from USA Today was escorted to maintain a familial environment.
In his opening remarks, President Allen stated he wanted students to understand “I am here for you. [As your president,] I am responsible for you, and I want you to succeed.”
Three microphones were made available to people who wanted to talk, and lines were immediately formed. Students told their stories of sexual assault and expressed their disappointment with the University in how they chose to handle this situation. Some students waited in line for four hours just to get the chance to speak out.
Emotions were high in the room as both young women and men took to the mic. One student asked if it were possible for students to be involved during the hiring process of employees such as Public Safety officers. A male student asked what students could do to help the administration keep us safe. Suggestions were also made – more security and lighting on DSU Downtown’s campus, locks on the bathroom doors in the residential halls, extended hours for the health center on campus, ID scanners at the main gate, more overnight patrolling, and more.
President Tony Allen responded, explaining that he is planning to build a coalition made up of students, faculty, staff, and many more from the community to tackle sexual assault and other campus issues.
Many audience members felt unsatisfied and unimpressed with the answers that several of the panelists gave. Some audience members made remarks that indicated they felt the panelists were lacking in empathy.
When it was implied that the event should end due to the time, President Allen stated that “he was not going anywhere.”
The Town Hall went on until 2:30 a.m. and many audience members stayed for its entire duration.
The following morning President Allen sent an email to the university community stating that, “Now is an opportunity for us to support you better and with the care and compassion you should expect.”
In this email, he listed some immediate actions such as assigning Deputy Chief Joi Simmons as the Sexual Assault Awareness officer, upgrading lighting and camera utilization, ensuring the Public Safety escort service is fulfilling needs, and extending counseling hours to Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. and Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. until the end of February.
The University has partnered with ChirstianaCare-GoHealth Urgent Care to provide students easy access to healthcare, in-person or virtually through https://www.gohealthuc.com/dte/christianacare/desu.
Additionally, there are currently support groups being coordinated for survivors and allies as well as a new anonymous hotline, monitored daily, that you can call at (302) 857-6866.
Students are encouraged to report incidents to the Title IX office, any University official, or Public Safety.
The follow-up meeting to this Town Hall is set to take place on Friday, January 27, 2023, at 11:00 a.m. in the MLK Student Center.
Categories: Campus News