We are in a race between education and catastrophe at Towson University.
The words in Janet Jackson’s landmark album “Rhythm Nation 1814,” released nearly 32 years ago, have more relevance today than anyone would have thought possible.
The shooting on the Towson University campus demonstrated an imminent danger of wokeness in academia – the possible loss of life.
Three adults, including one female Towson University student, were shot in the early morning hours on Saturday, Sept. 4, during an unsanctioned and unorganized campus gathering at Freedom Square that drew about 400 people.
The two other shooting victims were not affiliated with the University.
One of the shooting victims is 19-year-old Samuel Nnam of Greenbelt, Maryland.
He was later arrested and is being held without bond.
Nnam is charged with multiple counts of first-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault.
A veteran police officer who responded to the campus shooting was placed on paid leave as the shooting investigation continues, Towson officials announced.
Towson University President Kim Schatzel, Ph.D., alongside the University’s Vice President of Student Affairs, Vernon Hurte, Ph.D., and Towson University Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police Charles “Joe” Herring, issued a public statement Sept. 5, calling the University campus, “one of the safest in the nation.”
The three senior University officials reaffirmed their commitment to Towson’s student body, pledging “to do all we can to make our students, faculty, and staff feel safe whenever on campus.”
“Trespassing is not welcome on our campus, and violence has no place on it either,” their statement read.
Is Towson University Succumbing To Woke Culture?
Towson University administrators pursuing woke culture are allowing Towson students to live their truths while at the same time trying to maintain community.
Two different aspects take center stage – age and race.
Most of Towson University’s senior leadership are aged 40 and above.
While this is historically the norm for higher education, Towson’s senior leadership may not fully comprehend its student body’s generational activism, especially after experiencing 18 months of social isolation.
Race and Racism
I am African-American.
I believe in individual merit and responsibility, though I am reluctant to mention race.
But I would be academically dishonest if I did not mention the second area of disconnect – wokeness and the fear of racism.
The Towson University Shooting
Why was a large number of students (and non-students) allowed by University officials to assemble for a planned yet unsanctioned campus party several evenings in a row?
Perhaps the answer is the University police department did not want to appear racist.
In a world of Black Lives Matter and one year after George Floyd’s murder – just outside the city where Freddie Gray died six years ago – perhaps Towson University did not want to be at the center of the ongoing heated discussion about race and policing.
Woke Culture at Towson University
The social isolation young adults have experienced over the last 18 months and the reluctance to re-establish community norms on the Towson campus – because of perceived racism through policing – should force us to confront Towson’s latest shooting with intellectual honesty.
While increasing police patrols on campus is a start, it does not address the dangers of “woke culture.”
Towson’s senior leadership could use the shooting incident as an opportunity to teach Towson students to grow into adulthood.
Robert J. Thompson wrote the following on the purpose of higher education in 2014:
“To be responsive to societal needs through doing what colleges and universities are uniquely structured to do: generate knowledge and provide an educational experience that prepares students to meet societal needs and realize a meaningful and rewarding life.”
What if being woke is robbing Towson students of these meaningful educational life experiences?
Towson University Campus Security
Towson University is losing the trust of its students, and Towson parents are losing faith in the administration’s efforts to keep their daughters and sons safe on campus.
Students tell me repeatedly that they feel unsafe on a college campus that Towson administration officials claim as “one of the safest in the nation.”
That begs the question: Is the Towson University campus actually safe?
Does campus police genuinely care about ensuring the safety of all students, faculty, and staff?
Is Towson’s administration providing accurate and truthful information to our campus community?
These are questions Towson University’s administration MUST address sooner rather than later.
Can Towson sell “campus safety” to prospective students?
Towson University sells campus safety to prospective students and their parents.
Can campus safety still be used as one of Towson’s selling points when its administration fails to set clear communication standards?
Could the administration’s reactive approach to the latest shooting cause a declining enrollment?
As one student said, “I am paying a crazy amount of money to go to school here; I should at least feel that I am safe on campus.”
“As part of the University System of Maryland requirements, all Towson University students, faculty and staff on campus this fall (2021) are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” according to the University’s website.
“Individuals must submit proof of their first dose by noon on Sept. 10 to avoid further consequences.”
Suppose the decision can be made to keep students, faculty, and staff safe from a global pandemic. In that case, a policy can indeed be enforced to prevent a large group of unmasked individuals from entering the Towson campus.
It is up to adults to set the standards – and to enforce them.
Towson University students deserve a safe and secure environment to grow, without the possibility of violence on our campuses.
If Towson’s administration continues down the path of wokeism, catastrophic violence (unintended or otherwise) could occur in the months and years ahead.
Dr. Antonio “Tony” Campbell is an adjunct professor in the Towson University College of Liberal Arts. He teaches political science.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.