Westfield State to Install 400 Security Cameras Following Hate Crimes
A letter from Westfield State parents was sent to administrators last week, citing “desperation and fear” surrounding a spurt of hate crimes.
On Wednesday, the board of trustees at Westfield State University unanimously approved the installation of hundreds of additional security cameras on campus.
The decision comes after 22 reported incidents of racial bias on the Westfield, Mass., campus since September.
On the day of the decision, a racist note was allegedly left in a mailbox next to the door of a residential life staff member at Scanlon Hall. It was the fifth documented incident of bias in the last month in this specific dorm alone, according to Western Mass News.
WSU president Ramon S. Torrecilha sent an email to students informing them that 400 new security cameras will be mounted throughout the campus, particularly in residence hall areas, starting as early as next week.
“The purpose of this initiative is to provide our community and the Department of Public Safety with another tool to address, and possibly prevent, the continuation of hateful and destructive acts that have disrupted our living and learning environment,” reads the email.
A letter from WSU parents and alumni was also sent to administrators last week citing “desperation and fear”. The letter called for installation of more security cameras and a meeting with Torrecilha, which is said to occur sometime next week.
Torrecilha addressed the parent’s letter, stating, “I look forward to working with all of you as we address the underlying cultural issues that need our sustained attention in order to shift the campus climate to embody more compassion and empathy for all backgrounds and perspectives represented at our University.”
The letter also called for regular independent surveys to gauge the diversity climate on campus and a town hall meeting with the WSU community.
One of the parents who signed the letter, Zaida Govan, says his daughter, who is a third-year Westfield student, has friends who have been threatened.
“One of her best friends received a note slipped under her door threatening to rape and kill her,” said Govan. “The notes have been escalating, and they’re not all publicized.”
Govan says although Torrecilha is responding to the letter, they want immediate action.
“He’s doing what he needs to do, and as parents, we want to support the president and the university, but if we have to pull our children out of school, we will so they can feel safe.
The reported incidents began in early September when anti-Semitic graffiti was written on walls in a dorm. A note was also left under a minority student’s door saying black people are “worth nothing”, reports Mass Live.
A Latina student also alleged she was assaulted by multiple attackers who made racist comments.
In October, Westfield State established its Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT), a team dedicated to handling reported incidents of bias. Prior to the team’s establishment, the Student Life staff responded to incidents. All incidents can be viewed at any given time in the school’s incident log.
According to the school’s website, the students affected by reported bias are offered support services, including counseling and academic assistance
In November, WSU faculty organized a walkout and submitted a list of demands to administrators which included tighter security. Despite the outrage and efforts to address the incidents, a day later, another note and additional vandalism were found on the campus.
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