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Kim E. Schatzel, president of Towson University (Submitted photo).

After incident, Towson U. to modify hate/bias reporting

Following an incident in which racist and potentially threatening language was reportedly used at a Towson University cafe — which campus police ultimately determined no crime had been committed — the university’s president has announced changes to the reporting process for hate- and bias-related incidents.

Students and campus groups, such as the Black Student Union, criticized the university for what they perceived as a lack of concern and action about such incidents.

In an email sent to the campus community Wednesday afternoon, University President Kim Schatzel promised to address these concerns after the cafe incident and several other instances of “racist or disruptive behavior” were brought to her attention.

“We condemn hate speech and any racist behavior toward a member of our community, and it will not be tolerated,” Schatzel wrote, adding that the hate/bias reporting process “has been described as confusing, ineffective and non-responsive.”

Based on suggestions from the student Social Justice Collective, Schatzel outlined several changes to the process, including the establishment of a reasonable time in which the university will respond to reported incidents and the creation of a central body to respond directly to hate-bias incidents.

Victims of hate/bias incidents will be kept informed about the investigations and their outcomes, and incidents that don’t rise to the level of crimes — which are already reported in a police log — will be reported to the campus community separately, Schatzel wrote.

Schatzel has also asked the university’s vice president of student affairs, Santiago Solis, to lead a full review of the hate/bias reporting process.

A female cafe worker at the university’s liberal arts building reported to campus police earlier this month that a student has made a racist comment  — “You people don’t know how to listen” — after she asked him to repeat his order; he then threw money at the cafe worker, according to the police report.

When the student returned the next day, the worker —who told police there had been several previous incidents involving the student — refused to serve him. Angered, the student began rummaging in his bag and told the woman he had something for her, according to her witness statement.

Campus police arrived shortly thereafter and the student denied using offensive language; he ultimately left the scene after stating he had a test to take, according to the police report.

While police determined that no crime had occurred, the incident was referred to the University’s Office of Student Conduct, which is in the process of determining if there was a violation of the student code of conduct and what sanctions or penalties, if any, would be appropriate, according to a university spokesman.