ANNAPOLIS, Md. >> Maryland’s public colleges and universities would be required to develop stronger policies for reporting and documenting hate crimes and bias incidents on campuses, under a measure introduced in the General Assembly today in response to a fatal stabbing of a black Bowie State University student at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Democratic Delegate Angela Angel partly modeled her bill on some actions already taken at the College Park campus in the aftermath of U.S Army 2nd Lt. Richard Collins’ death in May, with a goal of seeing those replicated statewide. For example, it calls for a coordinator to take reports and make sure they are posted online for students, faculty and the public to see. The University of Maryland is in the process of hiring such a coordinator.
“I hope the steps the University of Maryland is taking to make the campus a safe place for all students is expanded to all other universities and colleges in the state, and hopefully other states are able to model this bill to protect their students as well,” said Yanet Amanuel, Angel’s chief of staff and a former University of Maryland student who was a member of a coalition representing minority groups on campus that urged the university to take stronger measures to prevent hate crimes.
Under bill, the outcome of investigations would be made public. The measure also would require an annual report to the General Assembly on hate crimes and bias incidents at Maryland’s public universities.
“It seems to be happening in our society more and more — that there’s kind of this undercurrent that we’re not necessarily paying as close attention to — and then when something bubbles up and a tragedy happens, then we’re reactive,” Angel said. “At this point, we’re glad that something is taking place, but one of the reasons I stepped in is because on all of our campuses, we want to put something that’s pre-emptive, and that’s going to make the universities begin to look at the atmosphere on their campus and take some measures hopefully to make it a safe space for everyone.”
The measure would require training for freshmen students to raise awareness about hate crimes, Amanuel said, and the bill would require Maryland colleges to create an electronic alert notification system students could opt into to receive reports about hate crimes on campus. Collins was murdered after reports last year of racist threats at the university, including a noose that was found inside a campus fraternity house as well as reports of racist flyers.
“For example, with the noose, we didn’t find out until two weeks later, and I felt like that was something urgent that students should know about,” Amanuel said.
Collins, who was African American, was days away from graduating from Bowie State, a historically black university. Sean Urbanski, a white student at the College Park campus, allegedly attacked Collins because of his race and has been charged with a hate crime. Urbanski became a member of a racist Facebook group several months before the stabbing, according to investigators. His trial is scheduled for July.
In November, Democratic U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown of Maryland introduced legislation in Congress aimed at holding university officials accountable for campus hate crimes. It would require accreditors to assess a university’s preventative measures for them to be eligible to receive federal financial aid payments for students. The measure also would require campus authorities to inform local law enforcement of hate crimes.