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DOVER — Delaware State University students met with school leaders Thursday night for a town hall discussion regarding concerns of sexual assaults reportedly occurring on campus.
Two sexual assault cases occurring on Jan. 13 and Jan. 14 are pending, according to a university police incident log. They are classified as rapes, according to the record.
The first report came from the University Courtyards Building, the second inside Tubman-Laws Hall.
University spokesman Carlos Holmes said there have been five sexual assault cases overall since school began in late August and investigation continues in all of them.
Students staged a protest Wednesday to bring attention to their concerns, and met on Tuesday as well.
Thursday’s gathering inside the Education and Humanities Theatre was closed to media. No media were permitted on campus Thursday, Mr. Holmes said,
Prior to the meeting, Trinity Harden, a freshman from Milford studying criminal justice said via cell phone that, “We’re really concerned that we’re not getting heard and nothing is being done.”
At a meeting on campus early in the week, Ms. Harden said, “I heard other people’s stories and haven’t been able to sleep since then. It really hit hard, it was really bad.”
Ms. Harden said she’s part of a group of students who will find someone to walk together if needed.
“I look at every male sideways because I don’t know who I can trust.
“It just doesn’t feel safe at all.”
For Linda Gray-Broughton, her junior daughter’s well-being at the university is a constant concern.
“There have been several attacks and the university is doing nothing about it,” she said. “She’s scared. As a parent mom I’m scared for her.”
Ms. Gray-Broughton would like to see more security cameras “in better locations” and have the university hire more female officers.
“As far as I know, I’ve never seen a female officer and clearly sometimes, not to be disrespectful, but sometimes men just don’t understand.
“A man may be lingering or looking at you or you feel unsafe in a situation. And that’s sometimes harder to explain to a man than a woman.
“You know, (overall) it’s just a lot of common sense things. “
Mr. Holmes said the university has 33 public safety personnel.
Mr. Holmes said the university’s leadership called for the meeting because “We want to hear from the students.
“There were a few of us out there during the protest but now we have a full complement of university leadership officials to hear from the students (about) their concerns, their perspectives, and we want them to hear from us too. They have questions for us and we want to be able to answer so that’s perfectly okay.”
Mr. Holmes said he did not anticipate the university issuing a statement after the meeting.
“(DSU) is a family,” he said. “This is a family moment. So we’re having a meeting with the family.”
And about the student protest on Wednesday, Mr. Holmes said “The university respects the First Amendment right to the students.
“That’s why we did not hinder, nor did we tried to stop the protests (Wednesday). We allowed them to express their concern in that protest. And some of us were there to hear some of those needs, to hear those concerns and perspectives.
“We want the students to be able to express themselves. We want the students to be able to tell us when they have concerns, and so that’s our reaction to the actions of the students yesterday.”
The university could not make any defined plans to address issues until hearing from the students first, Mr. Holmes said.
In a group message sent to the DSU community on Wednesday, President Tony Allen cited a student-organized protest earlier in the day related to sexual assault incidents.
That had arisen from a Student Government Association student-only meeting on Tuesday night “at which several students talked about their own experiences and what they felt was inaction by the University,” according to President Allen.
“After the protest, I spent time with the SGA and several of the students involved in the demonstration. I applaud them all, and I appreciated the opportunity to listen and really hear their concerns directly.”
President Allen said that “Any feeling on the part of our students that their University does not see, hear, feel, or validate them or any trauma that they experience is unacceptable and will be addressed.
“In addition to educating them, our highest priorities are our students’ physical safety, individual well-being, psychological health, and individual freedom.”
The president continued by saying, “As you all know, unfortunately, sexual assault is all too common on college campuses; among adults, sexual assault happens most often to traditionally college-age women (18–24 years of age).
“Colleges like ours that receive federal funding are required to publicly report sexual assault (Office of Women’s Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2021).”
President Allen provided a link to the university’s campus crime data report that’s required through federal law via the Clery Act.
In the message, Dr. Allen also said that he had asked “Dr. Gwendolyn Scott-Jones, Wesley College of Health and Behavioral Sciences Dean and executive director of the University’s Trauma Academy, to collaborate with a broad coalition of our students, the University Counseling Center, University Police and the University’s Title IX office to develop sexual assault awareness activities and interventions for our entire University community.”
Also, President Allen pointed to the university’s Counseling and a 24-hour nursing hotline at 1-866-315-8756 for confidential health care advice or information.
Those who have experienced a sexual assault, can submit a formal report at titleIX@desu.edu or reach out to Title IX coordinator, Ms. Mijrane Belizaire, directly at 302-857-6374, the message said.
Concluding the message, President Allen said, “To our students, I encourage you to continue to voice your concerns and to proactively be allies for each other.”