A plan to have unarmed students patrolling the campus of Towson University on foot has sparked accusations of racism.
The planned patrols are the brainchild of senior Mathew Heimbach, who also happens to head a group called the White Student Union.
Heimbach has written on his blog that Towson is experiencing a “black crime wave” with “black predators” preying on the “white majority student body.”
"Just like I wouldn't be offended if, when you talk about serial killers, the average serial killer is a blue-collar, educated white male," Heimbach told News4's Jim Rosenfield.
"It doesn't offend me to be able to talk about the facts," Heimbach said.
Other students disagree. One black student told Rosenfield, "I thought [Heimbach's statements were] racist, but they have their freedom of speech."
"Certain things are just ingrained in you by your cultural values and what you were taught as a kid," a white student said.
Heimbach's group is not university-sanctioned, but it has attracted the attention of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which lists the White Student Union on a so-called "hate map" of white supremacist groups.
"I'm not a future leader of hate," Heimbach said. "What I want to do in my entire life is enter seminary and become an Orthodox priest."
Heimbach hopes to begin the patrols early next week.
The univeristy told News4 it will increase evening patrols on campus but not as a result of increased crime. The school does not encourage students to take the law in their own hands, and while it does not recognize the White Student Union, there is little the university can do to stop it.
The school released the following statement:
It is important for the campus community to know that your concerns regarding activities of the “White Student Union” which has been in the news again, are shared by the University Administration. We continue to take every available opportunity to clarify that there is no established or recognized “White Student Union” (WSU) on Towson University’s campus. While a Towson University student attempted to form a recognized group in the fall, it failed to meet the university’s requirements for gaining recognition (including securing a faculty advisor). It should also be mentioned that another individual who was quoted in recent media reports as a member of the WSU, is not now nor has ever been enrolled as a student at Towson University. The university will continue to work proactively monitoring this organization and is following the development of activities that are being reported in the media.
Freedom of speech, expression and association are core constitutional rights that protect all groups, including the WSU, as long as they abide by the law. Occasionally these freedoms result in activities and language that many find hurtful, hateful and offensive. We strive to protect the rights of all students to these freedoms while also creating opportunities for discussion, learning and support. We will continue to work vigorously with students who feel threatened by the proposed activities of this group to ensure their safety and to help them find their voice to take back their power from those they feel are denigrating them. Immediate action will be taken in response to any reports of threats to the physical safety of individuals or groups within our community.
In response to the establishment of the “WSU crime patrols” at Towson University, we do not encourage the general public to take the law into their own hands for both their personal safety and legal protection. Our police department consistently encourages all members of the campus community to be observant and aware of their surroundings, practice good crime prevention and report any suspicious activity to the Towson University Police Department (410-704-4444) for investigation.
Towson University continues to be one of the safest campuses in the University System of Maryland (USM). In its last published report Towson University had the lowest crime statistics per capita in 2011 (Part 1-UCR statistics) among the USM campuses. In fact, despite our enrollment increase of 2.31% our total violent crime in 2012 was down 37.5% over the prior year.
Towson University has a policy that prohibits weapons (06-01.11 – Weapons Prohibited) which can be found on our website. Furthermore the individual involved has received a communication from the Vice President of Student Affairs and the State’s Attorney for Baltimore County clarifying TU policy and Maryland state law as it relates to these proposed patrols. To insure that the entire campus community continues to feel safe and comfortable, the TUPD is increasing its presence on campus during the evening hours.
One of the most egregious miscommunications being reported in the media is the about crime on campus. Crime statistics are not tracked by race and gender and there is no evidence that people are victims of crime as a result of their race. Additionally, on occasion the University makes a conscious decision to issue crime alerts when crimes happen within a mile of campus. Finally, TU tracks hate and bias incidents on campus and those typically are acts that target groups who have historically been underrepresented in higher education. We monitor all of these types of activities closely and respond swiftly.
Exchanging opinions and ideas are as essential to our mission as is our commitment to diversity and non-discrimination. As stated in an earlier communication from President Loeschke, we all are working tirelessly to continue to remain on top of what has been a challenging situation.
Deb Moriarty, Ph.D.
Vice President for Student Affairs
Associate Vice President, Office of Public Safety
Chief of Police
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