Yesterday afternoon, a document was made available on Blackboard that lists recommendations addressing how to avoid another incident like the one occurring at the homecoming dance last fall. This release was hours before the open forum was held to announce these findings to students, faculty, and the community.
At last fall’s homecoming dance, several students were treated forcefully by campus and town police as they attempted to filter out the crowd waiting to enter the Kehr Union. Several students insist that the treatment was racially motivated, as the majority of dance attendees were African American.
The list was formulated by a panel of three people, appointed by President Soltz, who investigated the situation and interviewed 40 individuals who were involved. They also considered remarks made by students at an initial forum held on November 10.
Following last night’s forum, which was kept to just over an hour, several questions swarmed BU Now’s newsroom, so the staff contacted Soltz for a follow up.
Although the final revisions of the report were concluded on Feb. 3, Soltz did not receive the draft until mid-January. As to why the report was not made available to students until hours before the forum, Soltz offered a foggy response at the forum to one student who asked this very question: “The reason it wasn’t released earlier is that we chose to have the recommendations released tonight and then have the discussion… We’d rather get the recommendations out first, have the people think about them…” Part of his response was mumbled and difficult to understand.
During the forum, Soltz announced that he agreed with most of the recommendations, though he expected the students would not. “I believe there were many good recommendations,” he told BU Now. “As I stated at the open forum, I believe the most important recommendations address improving the overall campus climate. “ He encourages students, faculty, and staff to log onto Blackboard, where a copy of the recommendations can be found.
A discussion board is also available on Blackboard, where comments and questions about the report can be posted. These posts will be visible to all who have a Bloomsburg Blackboard account, and considered by the president’s executive staff.
“As an institution of higher education, we embrace technology,” explained Soltz as to why the discussion is being continued online. “Blackboard is an excellent mechanism for the entire campus community, including those who may not be comfortable speaking publically, to review and comment on the report and recommendations.”
The presentation of the 40-plus recommendations and the questions-and-answer session were kept to just over an hour. While it is true that Soltz answered all questions raised at the forum, he also made a clear effort to monitor how long the question-and-answer session continued, as he declared when the last question was about to be asked. “The purpose was to present the recommendations, encourage faculty, staff and students to read the full report and engage the BU community in identifying how to best address these recommendations,” he told BU Now. “I believe I answered all questions raised at the forum and invited other questions and comments on Blackboard.”
The dialogue will then be continued on March 26 at the President’s Conversation on Diversity.
Soltz opened the forum by reading a formal apology directed at those innocent students who were Maced or treated with force throughout the disbursement procedure at the homecoming dance. This apology addressed one of the recommendations made by the panel to work toward healing the campus climate (IX. Recommendations A. Healing the Campus Climate 4). “I believe my statement demonstrates my commitment to work with the campus community and law enforcement to lessen the possibility of this happening again.”
When asked if the apology was solely meant for those innocent bystanders who were pepper sprayed or impacted by extreme disbursement measures, Soltz explained, “Many people were impacted, some without provocation. It was important to me that I addressed the entire BU community.” He also mentioned that many factors were highlighted by the report which contributed to the “regrettable situation,” that resulted, as Soltz called it last night.