Indianapolis News and HeadlinesIndianapolis local newsDelaware County

Actions

'I know that tensions are heightened': Ball State president responded to recent incidents on campus

Posted at 7:19 PM, Nov 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-09 06:47:26-05

MUNCIE — After a few recent incidents on Ball State University's campus, President Geoffrey Mearns said he "unequivocally condemn anyone's attempt to intimidate or threaten someone else."

On Friday night, videos posted to social media showed several pick-up trucks driving through campus, some flying American flags, and at least one with a flag appearing to support President Donald Trump.

WRTV is not sharing these videos or tweets in this story because we have not yet received permission from the original source to share them.

One video posted appears to show a person filming students gathering near a residential hall and saying, "Look at all these Biden lovers," then saying, "Look at all these libtards."

Multiple people criticized the university on social media for not sending an emergency alert Friday night.

Emergency warnings are sent by the university when there is "an immediate threat to the health and safety of students or employees on campus who need to protect themselves from imminent danger," according to the university's website.

University police didn't issue an emergency alert because officers determined there was no imminent threat to the campus community Friday evening, Kathy Wolf, vice president of marketing and communications said in an email.

In an email sent to the campus community Saturday afternoon, Mearns said the incidents this week involved people from outside the campus community.

"Although these agitators have not displayed any weapons, they are harassing and trying to provoke our students," Mearns said in the letter. "While I respect every person's First Amendment rights, I unequivocally condemn anyone's attempt to intimidate or threaten someone else."

"Over the past four days, I have been kept informed of these events, which escalated last evening," he added. "I appreciate that these episodes have understandably caused some of our students to feel unsettled and unsafe."

Mearns said he's asked university police officers to increase patrols in and around campus.

"As part of this proactive preparation, our officers will be positioned at the different entry points to campus beginning this evening and continuing for the foreseeable future," Mearns said.

The Ball State University Police Department will work with other local law enforcement agencies to increase patrols in the neighborhoods near campus.

Vice President of Student Affairs Ro-Anne Royer Engle has been asked to reach out to staff members to provide students with additional support they may need. Provost Susana River Mills is talking with the university's deans to address the faculty and staff member's concerns.

"Everyone is working together—in unity—to respond to these unacceptable and unwarranted provocations," Mearns said. "On that point, I want our students to know that one of the principal objectives of these interlopers is to provoke you. I urge you to exercise restraint."

He reminded students who see threatening actions to call university police at 765-285-1111.

"I know that tensions are heightened in our country this evening," Mearns said. "At our University, though, I am confident that we will honor our commitment to Beneficence, even in these challenging times."

Junior social studies education major Gaven Schulz, who is the chair of Ball State College Republicans, says he doesn’t know anyone who was involved with Friday night’s incidents.

When he saw what was happening, Schulz says the organization’s executive board talked Saturday morning and wanted to issue the statement condemning what happened.

He says while they support Trump, the organization wanted to make their position clear.

“We’re not apart of this, we do not condone harassing anybody and there’s just no place at Ball State or anywhere for that matter,” Schulz said.

Schulz recommends students who may find themselves at a protest where some people start to get aggressive or violent to distance themselves and record on your phone, so it is clear what is going on.

“If you’re at an event where a majority are going down the route maybe it’s best to leave that event and try to organize with more peaceful people at a later time,” Schulz said.

You can read the full statement from College Republicans at Ball State below:

In a letter signed by several student organizations at the university, the organizations listed four action steps they want the university to take.

You can read the letter below:

In the letter sent by Mearns later in the afternoon, he thanked the student organizations for their leadership and suggestions.

"Earlier today, I received a letter from the leaders of several student organizations," Mearns said. "I am grateful for their strong leadership and their constructive suggestions."

One of the suggestions was to expand the university's on-campus shuttle service. Mearns said he has directed his staff to implement this suggestion immediately.

You can read the full statement from Mearns below:

Dear Students and Colleagues:

At our Fall Convocation, I anticipated that we would likely face additional challenges this year. And I observed that it was incumbent upon all of us to respond to these challenges with a sustained commitment to the enduring values that have distinguished our University for more than 100 years.

This week, there have been a few incidents on campus involving people from outside of our university community. Although these agitators have not displayed any weapons, they are harassing and trying to provoke our students. While I respect every person's First Amendment rights, I unequivocally condemn anyone's attempt to intimidate or threaten someone else.

Over the past four days, I have been kept informed of these events, which escalated last evening. I appreciate that these episodes have understandably caused some of our students to feel unsettled and unsafe. I send this message to let you know what additional steps we are taking today to prevent further disruptive, unwelcome, and intimidating actions.

This morning, I directed the leadership of our University Police Department to increase patrols in and around campus. As part of this proactive preparation, our officers will be positioned at the different entry points to campus beginning this evening and continuing for the foreseeable future. Additionally, our officers will continue to work in partnership with other local law enforcement agencies to increase patrols in the neighborhoods adjacent to our campus in order to enhance the safety of our students who live off-campus.

I have asked Vice President of Student Affairs Ro-Anne Royer Engle to instruct her staff to provide our students with any additional support that they need. I have also asked Provost Susana Rivera Mills to communicate with our academic deans to address any concerns that our faculty and staff may have. Everyone is working together—in unity—to respond to these unacceptable and unwarranted provocations.

On that point, I want our students to know that one of the principal objectives of these interlopers is to provoke you. I urge you to exercise restraint. Please don't engage with these agitators. Please walk away.

But if you see any threatening conduct, please notify UPD immediately by calling (765) 285-1111.

Earlier today, I received a letter from the leaders of several student organizations. I am grateful for their strong leadership and their constructive suggestions.

One of their suggestions is to expand on-campus shuttle service. I have directed my staff to implement that suggestion immediately.

Ball State University is a diverse community. We value that diversity. Accordingly, we are called to respect everyone. In our Beneficence Pledge, we commit to such mutual respect.

But I will not tolerate harassment and provocation.

I know that tensions are heightened in our country this evening. At our University, though, I am confident that we will honor our commitment to Beneficence, even in these challenging times.

It is a privilege to serve you as the president of Ball State University.

WRTV reached out to the Muncie Police Department Friday evening and Saturday afternoon for a statement and is still awaiting a response.