Morgan State University plans to build a wall around campus after shooting during homecoming week
Oct 11, 2023, 5:30 AM
(AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)
BALTIMORE (AP) — In the wake of a shooting that left five people injured during homecoming festivities, Morgan State University leaders announced Tuesday they plan to build a wall around most of the northeast Baltimore campus and station security personnel at entrances and exits.
The wall would extend existing barriers by about 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) to encircle 90% of campus and effectively “eliminate unfettered access,” university President David Wilson said during a campus town hall.
“We’re doing this, let me be clear, not to keep out our neighbors and our community writ large; we are doing it to keep out the bad actors,” Wilson told an auditorium filled with students, faculty and staff of the historically Black university.
After the shooting the night of Oct. 3 following a coronation ceremony for this year’s Mister and Miss Morgan State, university leaders canceled classes and homecoming activities for the remainder of the week. They’re now grappling with how to keep students safe as gun violence becomes an ever-growing threat in American schools.
During Tuesday’s town hall, Wilson and others faced a litany of questions from students and staff demanding to know what more could have been done to prevent the shooting. Students were walking from an auditorium to the campus student center, where a coronation ball was scheduled to start, when the gunfire erupted.
The campus was placed on lockdown and students were told to shelter in place because police initially thought there was an active shooter threat. No arrests have been made, but Baltimore police have released surveillance images of persons of interest and asked the public for help identifying them. Police said they believe the violence stemmed from a dispute and involved two shooters.
They said the five victims, including four Morgan State students, likely were not intended targets. All the victims were released from local hospitals last week.
University officials said significant security upgrades were underway before the shooting, but they’re now moving forward with more urgency. In addition to the wall, other potential upgrades include installing more metal detectors in campus buildings, exploring weapons detection technology, increasing police patrols and building additional security guard booths. Wilson said the anticipated total cost is more than $22 million.
Previous Morgan State homecoming celebrations have also been subject to violence. In October 2022, a young man was shot during what officials called an unsanctioned homecoming after-party on campus, and the year before, a freshman was arrested and charged with shooting his classmate over homecoming weekend.
The university, which has about 9,000 students, was founded in 1867 with an initial mission of training men for ministry, according to its website. It moved to its current site in northeast Baltimore in 1917 and was purchased by the state of Maryland in 1939 as it aimed to provide more opportunities for Black citizens.
Wilson began his presentation Tuesday with reminders of the university’s mission and core values. He said he spoke with the injured students earlier that day and one of them had a message for the university community: “Today may look grim but tomorrow is bright.”
Wilson also promised to reschedule the homecoming ball that was thwarted by gunfire.