Flags on Towson University’s International Walkway wave freely in the wind to welcome people from other nations as students head to class.
(Photo by: Kerry Ingram/TU Student)
In a mass email sent out to the Towson University community, President Kim Schatzel gave the university the label of “sanctuary campus” at the start of the spring 2017 semester.
The email was a direct response to the recent immigration policies put in place by President Donald Trump. After President Trump’s temporary ban on immigration, Towson University received USO guidance in order to support individuals of the campus community affected by the ban. According to university reports, there was one member of the school’s community who was directly affected by the executive order and about a dozen other members of the community that could be later affected. By giving Towson a sanctuary title, President Schatzel opened up conversation as to how diversity and immigration on campus should be handled.
“The label of being called a sanctuary campus has no legal definition to it,” President Schatzel said. “There’s no policy statement with the USM, so we make the determination of what to do and what rights we will provide and warrant.”
The University community’s determination has proven to be one of open acceptance to the rights and well-being of all students under the Schatzel administration thus far. Towson University held an open Campus Dialogue on Immigration and DACA to begin the sanctuary trend. The meeting promoted the international acceptance the university had already been practicing, and encouraged suggestions for how to better the campus community.
The call for a sanctuary campus also gave students courage to speak out on the current climate of the campus.
“I’ve noticed that Towson’s clubs and organizations, as well as it’s Greek life, is segregated in a way,” said Shanya Mosley, assistant director of Campus Activities Board Marketing for Towson’s Student Government Association. “It isn’t done maliciously. It’s just natural to only pay attention to people with similarities to you. But we need to work to change that and to encourage inclusiveness and diversity within groups, not between them.”
Towson University has continuously held events, open meetings, and other activities to further showcase its acceptance efforts. The Black Faculty Staff Association hosted a Black History Month Kickoff event last month. According to the Towson Towerlight, more white men attended the event than black men to show their support. Towson’s Center for Student Diversity sponsored a talk on Islamophobia, by State Department consultant Wajahat Ali, an American Muslim who has personally fought against the issue. Towson’s theatre department invited The Acting Company to perform X: or Betty Shabazz vs. the Nation, and analyze the world of Malcom X and its connections to the diversity struggles of today. Last week, an international tea-time was held in the university’s psychology building, entitled “DiversiTea, where students got to mingle and discuss their direct concerns in regards to what it means to be an international student on Towson’s campus.
Towson University is currently still operating under President Schatzel’s “sanctuary” title. For some students, like Amber Wilson, a sophomore art major, the title has made a positive impression.
“I think that Towson University has been handling diversity on campus very well,” Wilson said. “Whenever I walk around campus I am reminded of what Towson stands for, with programs for diverse students as well as posters spreading TU’s huge mission statement ‘#NotAtTU’. I think a combination of all these messages and how TU has remained open about this topic reminds me why I chose to attend this school, for its diversity and acceptance of anyone despite their background.”