University of Baltimore student Madison Vital posted a TikTok video about campus safety on Oct. 16 that’s caught the attention of over 2.5 million viewers online. In the video, she spoke about the threats and harassment that have been inflicted upon her by another student attending the university. She also alleged that her university has done little to nothing to ensure that the threat is diminished and that staff and students will be kept safe while on campus. The University of Baltimore released a statement in response to Vital’s story on Oct. 14, saying in part, “We are working diligently, constantly, to ensure that the UBalt campus is a safe place to work, learn, and visit. We have a strong, long-standing track record of maintaining a secure environment, and we intend to continue in that direction.” Vital’s video has raised an important question: What are students to do if their faculty does not effectively recognize and combat threats of violence?
Vital explains the details of her circumstance in her roughly three-minute video. “There is a student in two of my classes who brings a gun to school every single day, even though it’s against university policy,” she said. “This same student has stalked, threatened, and assaulted me both on and off campus since the second week of classes.” She explained how she reported this individual to her professors on Oct. 5 and 6. By Oct. 7, police were involved, and Vital was advised to press charges and file a peace order against the student due to his history of involvement in violent acts like this.
A warrant went out for his arrest, and Vital says six days later, the student was arrested on campus where police found a gun in his backpack. Vital notes that UB had not publicly notified staff and students of the student with a gun on their campus. Heading to court on Oct. 12 for her temporary peace order, Vital received documentation that this student was ordered to stay off of UB campus. She said that when speaking with the university dean, they “informed me that the student is on an interim suspension but is required to meet with her, and after their meeting, the school can decide to completely ignore any court ordered document and allow the student to continue to attend the University of Baltimore.”
Following law enforcement’s suggestions, Vital’s been advised to stay off campus until her university decides to “do something about the situation,” meaning that she hasn’t been back since Oct. 5 (her video was posted on Oct. 16). With little communication from UB to community members about the threat, the president of UB, Kurt L. Schmore, finally released the aforementioned general statement to the UB community on Oct. 14.
That statement does not provide details about the situation. It states that UB university police handled the conflict and that there “was no ongoing threat to the safety of [their] community.” Her Campus reached out to Schmore for comment and received word back from Chris Hart, director of communications for UB. Hart told Her Campus that they are “constrained by student privacy law from discussing the incident,” but that they released the following statement to all of their social channels:
With the lack of university protocol to ensure the safety of the staff and students, many college students may be wondering: What would I do if I was stuck in the same situation? If you or anyone you know is feeling the same way and is unsure of where to turn next, here are a few steps you can take to ensure your safety.
- Notify campus and law enforcement officials.
If you ever feel somewhat unsafe about a potential threat or brooding situation, it’s important to get into contact with law enforcement as soon as possible. Reporting danger that could inflict harm on yourself and the community around you is the first step to seeking safety and resolution. Like Vital did, it’s also important to notify your professors or university staff, so they are at least aware of the potential hazard.
Having a documented report of a developing threat in your community ensures that law enforcement are conscious of the situation, and will hopefully take steps to resolve the issue. Though law enforcement was unable to fully diffuse Vital’s threat, they were able to offer her legal advice and additional protection that her university was not able to. While attending court for her peace order, Vital was escorted by a detective. Law enforcement also urged her to not return to UB campus until the situation was handled effectively.
- Keep a record of evidence.
Her Campus spoke to trial lawyer David Clark, who highlighted the SPARC, aka Stalking Prevention, Awareness, & Resource Center, which “offers resources, such as awareness education, to everyone, including campus professionals.”
One of SPARC’s leading recommendations is to keep a record with as much viable evidence as possible. Notifying police officials and filing a report of some kind automatically ensures there is written evidence of a potential threat.
The National Network to End Domestic Violence Safety Net Project outlines via their Tech Safety page forms of evidence that qualify as viable documentation:
- Keep a general log equipped with date, time, location, officer information (if reported), witnesses, suspected technology (if utilized), and a description of what the abuser did.
- Keep photos or screenshots of unusual threats via email, text message, or social media. If someone left an odd voicemail, make sure to save it.
- Take photos or videos if you feel unsafe while witnessing odd behavior.
- Follow general safety precautions.
If you find yourself in a situation similar to Vital — where, after reporting a hazard, you feel your school is taking minimal steps to ensure general safety — there are still a few steps you can take.
“Students [can] look into PEACE OUTside Campus: This group advocates for the safety of students off-campus as well,” Clark tells Her Campus. “In the case of the University of Baltimore, the students’ safety off campus is also at risk as much as it is on campus. This is [important] for people like Vital who reported the incident. PEACE OUTside Campus offers programs and resources related to identifying risks and off-campus safety.”
PEACE OUTside Campus offers a detailed personal safety tip resource that educates students on general precautions you can take on and off campus. Some of those tips include:
- Walk around with more than one person at a time, and do not walk alone after night.
- If you find yourself alone at vulnerable times, stay in a public place until you can find safe transportation (e.g. car service, university transportation, etc.).
- If you feel like you’re being followed, head for a public, well-lit area immediately.
- Keep your car and front doors locked at all times.
- Use social media warily and keep an eye out for unusual activity.
- Let someone know where you’re going, when you’ll be back, and who to contact if you don’t return.
- If you are confronted by a threat, make a lot of noise and commotion to draw attention to your situation.
- Always trust your instincts.
- Do what’s best for you.
Vital’s incident has opened up a conversation about the responsibility that public organization officials carry to uphold the wellbeing of individuals in their community. Danger on campus can limit a student’s ability to attend class and engage in university extracurriculars with peace of mind. School spaces are intended to be a safe place for students to cultivate education, personal, and professional growth.
If you don’t feel comfortable on campus and your school doesn’t have any precautions set in place to protect you and your peers, it’s important to do what’s best for you. Vital didn’t return to her classes because she felt threatened and was advised by law enforcement officials not to return to campus. If not returning to your in-person classes will alleviate your feeling of imminent danger, communicate this with your professors and academic advisors.
Of course, it’s your university’s responsibility to protect and safeguard staff and students, but if a school fails to do so, it’s OK to take your personal welfare into your own hands.