More than 300 Rowan University students, administrators, faculty, staff and alumni gathered in the Eynon Ballroom in the Chamberlain Student Center on Oct. 5 to discuss last week’s incident in which Glassboro police pulled over two Rowan University students on the main campus for a report of a gun possession. No weapons were found.
Altaif Hassan, the 21-year-old student who got pulled over, retold the incident that Giavanna Roberson and him went through. He also spoke about how the Glassboro police handled the situation.
“I didn’t get no apology, no type of feeling that they didn’t mean to do it,” Hassan said. “I know these cops. I have conversations with these cops, especially the one with the assault rifle.”
Hassan said that the police officers pick and choose who they want to be professional or unprofessional towards.
“Glassboro is the problem,” Hassan said. “Glassboro police is the problem. That’s the reason why everybody wasn’t backing up. They weren’t scared, they knew I didn’t have a gun. They knew no one was going to start shooting.”
The open forum began with a welcome given by Richard Jones, vice president for student life and dean of students.
Ali Houshmand, president of Rowan University, and Rbrey Singleton, president of the Student Government Association, both spoke about the incident and the purpose for the meeting.
“This is an opportunity for us as a civilized group to express our views and to try to see how we can move forward to make this place a better place for every single one of you,” Houshmand said.
“We understand that it was a deeply triggering event for many folks on this campus for a wide range of reasons, and we wanted to give the students an opportunity to express the way they feel,” Singleton said.
Before anyone spoke, community agreements were written down on large poster papers and placed in front of the ballroom for everyone to see.
Some of the agreements read, “Challenge the idea not the person”, “Vegas rule”, “Don’t expect closure” and “Focus on facts.”
Finally, the floor was opened for anyone who wanted to share their thoughts. Many hands were raised during this time.
The first question that afternoon brought lots of murmurs throughout the ballroom.
“Are the Glassboro police here?”
They were not; and many students wanted to know why.
Singleton responded by saying he couldn’t speak for the Glassboro police as to why they decided not to show up, but as student body president he can assure everyone that him and his administration will be reaching out to the Glassboro Police Department to begin those conversations.
Throughout the event, many students expressed their thoughts about Glassboro police and offered solutions on how to move forward. One such student was Noel Irizarry, a senior finance and economics major.
“At the end of the day we need to stop talking about forums, stop talking about doing town halls,” Irizarry said. “What we really need to do is protest, to the point that the police officers are re-trained on their conduct on how to deal with students. That’s the only way things are going to get fixed.”
Shevon Torres, a representative of the Black Lives Matter NJ chapter, reacted to the event.
“We don’t go to the police because that doesn’t accomplish anything,” Torres said. “We need to understand that this fight against incidents is like a marathon, not a sprint. While the event didn’t reach a solution, it definitely invigorated students.”
In a follow-up email sent by President Houshmand, he discussed the next steps.
“To that end, our next steps include continuing to meet with the borough, the students involved, SGA and Student Affairs to formulate a plan in order to learn and grow from this experience,” Houshmand said. “We look forward to meeting with many groups and expect to invest much time in collectively finding solutions to the concerns voiced today.”
Additional reporting by Dijon Johnson.
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