BUCKHANNON – West Virginia Wesleyan College students are sounding alarm bells over alleged mistreatment of minority students by security officers at the school.
“All too often we have witnessed and been impacted by actions of security that do not seek to maintain a safe and secure living environment for students, but instead threaten, disrespect and punish us and our peers, especially students of color, LGBTQ+ students, and women,” Charleston native and Wesleyan student Jakob Spruce he said via a written statement. “The continued engagement by security personnel of punitive control, dismissal of protocol, racist and misogynistic assertions, and threats of violence towards students, clearly demonstrates the numerous ways in which the function of security on this campus stands as an antithesis to the mission of this institution.”
According to junior Jules Kessler, a gender studies major, security dynamic “kicked up” after the retirement of former Director of Security David S. Parks last year.
The exact number of security officers on campus was unknown at the time of the press conference. It was also unknown as to whether there has been a large turnover in the security officers since the retirement of Parks.
Two African American students were allegedly detained for nearly two hours recently by campus security. During this time, they were allegedly cursed at, threatened with a number of different scenarios and made to feel unsafe on campus.
According to students, there is now a feeling of fear on campus from security officers’ reported threats and behavior in general towards minority students.
Kessler and Spruce are part of a campus group, Our Voice Among the Hills, organized by students last year after 27 employee positions were eliminated as part of a reduction in force of staff due to budget concerns, but has been reenergized after recent alleged incidents on campus have been reported.
The group is not a recognized group and is self-governed, according to Kessler. In response to the reported incidents, the college administration has set up a task force composed of senior administrators and student leadership including student senate officers and representative resident directors.
According to a press release from the school, the college has created a task force in response to a recently identified student concern about security. The task force is co-chaired by James Moore, academic dean, and David McCauley, general legal counsel for the school.
According to Kessler, the task force holds no membership of students who were reportedly the victims of the incidents in question.
Moore said in an interview after the student press conference that the school values the concerns of all students and is proud they are stepping forward to make their concerns known.
He further noted the establishment of the task force is to have a respectful engagement of the concerns with students through the channels of student government to include the student senate much as the senate faculty brings the concerns of teachers to the administration.
It was noted that several security officers were disciplined in some manner, but those actions are a matter of personnel and cannot be released publicly per college policy.
Currently, Scott Tinney, college CFO, is serving a dual role of CFO and head of security.
Students noted they would like to see the role of director of security filled by someone with proper training and work experience.
The task force will next meet April 3 from 3 to 5 p.m.
According to Moore, the task force will continue to meet as a group to address the student concerns and is not a “one off” thing.
“We owe it to ourselves to continue to examine ourselves to be the best we can be,” he said. “We are proud of the students’ passion. We are proud of the students who put this together.
The Record Delta will continue to publish updates on this story as it develops.