Reflecting on Recent Campus and Community Events

Recent events on and near campus, including concerns about sexual assault policies, instances of racial profiling and a shooting at a high school near campus have caused unease in the Wake Forest community. Many community members have expressed concerns about safety and are asking for support and access to resources and information as they navigate these issues and challenges.

“We have had to deal with so much during the first few weeks of this academic year. While all of us are excited to be back on campus, there is a palpable sense of both psychological and emotional fatigue,” said President Susan R. Wente. “I feel it, too. COVID-19 remains with us and continues to challenge us. We are all continuing to process events on campus and in our local community, our country and around the world. Our community is also mourning the loss of a student in last week’s school shooting at Mount Tabor High School.

“It is understandable that in the wake of these challenges some community members are feeling less safe and welcome on campus, which is unacceptable. We must condemn in the strongest terms acts of sexual and relationship violence, as well as acts of racism and racialized threats at Wake Forest. I am deeply committed to creating a safe, welcoming campus for all Wake Forest community members, and we will work collaboratively to address any gaps or challenges the past several weeks have revealed.”

Following the student demonstration related to sexual assault, Wente asked administrators, faculty and staff to gather with small groups of students to hear their concerns. She also met with student leaders and is committed to making sexual and relationship violence prevention and education one of her top priorities. During and after the August 28th demonstration, instances of racial profiling on campus were reported, highlighting the intersectional nature of these issues in the Wake Forest community and on college campuses across the country. Wente asks for the commitment of all to the critical ongoing work of fostering a welcoming, inclusive campus climate for all Wake Forest students, faculty and staff.

As the campus community continues to address these complex challenges, Wente noted that part of creating a positive and safer campus comes through watching out for one another.

“I encourage everyone to pay close attention to those around you — especially those who are feeling most vulnerable,” she said. “Take care of yourselves and one another. Let’s work together to show each other kindness, patience and understanding.”

Additionally, students who need support during this time should contact the University Counseling Center and the Chaplain’s Office. Faculty and staff are encouraged to contact the Chaplain’s Office and the University’s Employee Assistance Program.

Responding to the Mount Tabor Shooting

After last week’s shooting at nearby Mount Tabor High School, administrators and staff from Wake Forest University, including the Wake Forest University Police Department, conducted an after-action review with the Winston-Salem Police Department and the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. This group discussed the effectiveness of the emergency response, needed process improvements for future emergencies, and what steps can be taken to mitigate challenges in the future.

“The shooting at Mount Tabor was an unusual event,” said Brett Eaton, senior associate vice president for communications and external relations. “It occurred off campus and never posed a direct threat to our University community, but did have a direct impact on our University community. It is fair to ask what students, faculty and staff should expect from Wake Forest should an incident like this occur in the future.”

Eaton noted that the University community can expect the following:

  • Wake Forest will continue to coordinate with local law enforcement to prepare and respond to incidents.
  • Wake Forest will act to mitigate risks to students, faculty and staff.
  • Wake Forest will communicate with students, faculty and staff to mitigate risk.
  • Wake Forest will support the Winston-Salem community in the event of a crisis.

At the request of the Winston-Salem Police Department, Wake Forest personnel opened the Coliseum and provided operations and logistics support for Mount Tabor students to reunite with their families.

As a reminder, members of the Wake Forest campus community are strongly encouraged to subscribe to Wake Alerts, the primary source of information during a campus emergency, and visit Wake Ready, which provides the community with University Police advisories and community safety advisories.