The Virginia State University Board of Visitors agreed Monday to hire a consultant to look at campus safety issues.
The Petersburg Progress-Index reports the board made the decision after an emergency four-hour meeting behind closed doors.
The action comes after a series of incidents, including the fatal shooting of a student off campus, a melee and stabbing during homecoming celebrations, and the banning of the football team from the CIAA playoffs. VSU was excluded from the postseason after one of its football players was charged with assaulting Winston-Salem State University’s quarterback during a Nov. 15 luncheon.
Four days ago, VSU student Eric Wilkins Jr., 22, was shot and killed in front of a gated university apartment complex. And during the university’s homecoming on Oct. 16, a melee and stabbing left one student with non-life threatening wounds to his leg.
VSU Rector Harry Black said the purpose of Monday’s board meeting was to allow VSU staff to update the board on the incidents. He said VSU President Keith Miller proposed initiatives to address the incidents, including hiring the consultant. Neither Black nor Miller would elaborate on other initiatives.
Black said he did not know how much it will cost to hire the consultant.
“It is our belief that Virginia State University is a safe place to live and to learn. However, it is important to remember that the world has changed,” Black said.
Miller said that he expects to make significant progress in assessing the university’s policies within the next couple of weeks. In the short term, Miller said that the university is promoting safety awareness among the student body.
Students who lived two buildings down from the apartment building where Wilkins was shot attended the board meeting with the hope of seeing a change.
“It really put a damper on our perception of VSU,” senior Kyle Majors said of the shooting.
Bryan Williams, Jr., 19, of Chester, was charged with first-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
Majors added that nothing was done to improve campus safety after the homecoming incident.
“How bad does it have to get?” Majors said.