Morgan State University has been increasing security measures to prevent violence on campus since the shooting on Oct. 3 in which five people were injured, causing cancellation of classes and homecoming events. There has been talk of installing more cameras and hiring additional security personnel. There’s also the idea of extending the preexisting security barrier around the university. While these options may sound promising, the question is: Will they work?

In his annual town hall meeting, Morgan State President David K. Wilson spent significant time explaining how the additional fencing would work.

“We are now exploring as a goal to enclose 90% of the campus in order to eliminate unfettered access,” he said. “We are simply, if you will, extending around the campus our ‘Morgan Wall’.”

The idea is not a new one. For nearly a decade, Morgan State has aimed at creating a perimeter barrier with new construction and design. Morgan spokesman Larry Jones said, “This perimeter fencing, which exists around 60 percent of campus grounds, has been there for years, with the first stretches of it being erected in 2011. Only an estimated 30 percent of the campus perimeter is left to put up the barrier fencing before we reach a 90 percent enclosure.”

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He also noted, “Increasing the perimeter barrier fencing is just one tactic included in a larger security enhancement strategy.”

Wilson calls the fence a “decorative exterior security barrier” which will have specified entry points for those trying to access the campus. But will fences be enough to ensure students a safe HBCU experience? Some students are skeptical.

“With them talking about doing all this new gating around campus I’d like to see it but I have to see it in order to believe it,” said Kofi Stevenson, a Morgan student. “The same thing with the cameras last year, it just didn’t really make a difference.”

Victoria Jenkins, a Morgan student, is also not too sure of the plan. “Me personally, I don’t see how it’s really going to deter crime,” Jenkins said.

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Then there’s a group of people that are conflicted about the planned barrier.

“I have mixed feelings about the fencing plan because in light of the shooting and the location of our campus, it is obvious that more structure is necessary in order to regulate those who are entering unto our campus with bad intentions, but it also is a case of one person messing it up for everyone else as Morgan State University is a resource to the community oftentimes,” said Morgan student Olajumoke Oni. “With that being said, it’s sad that they’re now limited because of the unlawful actions of another.”

Morgan State is an open campus, which means the community is welcomed onto its grounds and there is no separation between the two. Morgan, like many other HBCUs, is located in a struggling neighborhood with open access to the university. In 2022, HBCUMoney published information about African American poverty rates in HBCU states. In Maryland, where Morgan is located, that number stands at 19.5%. The state’s overall poverty rate is just 12%.

According to HBCUMoney, HBCUs and alumni should work together with other HBCUs and the African American community to help overcome African American poverty. During an interview with WFAA following the shooting incident, Baltimore’s Mayor Brandon Scott stated, “Morgan is a treasure, not just in Baltimore, not just for Maryland, but for this country.” He continues, “We won’t let this incident outshine the light that Morgan pushes out each and every day.”

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The university has been a pillar of the Baltimore community since 1867. “Morgan has been one of the most noted HBCU colleges in this area for a very long time, " said community member Tamiya Townes. “It’s specifically impactful for the individuals & youth that live in that Loch Raven area to kind of be centered around such greatness.”

Morgan opened the Northwood Commons shopping center, formerly known as Northwood Plaza, earlier this year with state of the art architecture and a variety of businesses servicing not only the Morgan family but the surrounding community. The Public Safety building for Morgan is also located at Northwood Commons. Morgan has made it very clear that it is not blocking out its community.

“Those communities and neighborhoods currently have access to the campus and will continue to have access to the campus,” Jones said. “The measures being put into place on the campus will only serve to enhance the safety of the campus, not separate it from the surrounding community or keep law-abiding community members out.”

But how can Morgan block out the violence without putting a wall up against the community?

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BeSafe Technologies Inc., a safety tech company summarized the Hanover Research paper “School Fencing: Benefits and Disadvantages,” stating that security barriers have some pros and cons and that schools should create balance when implementing fencing. “Schools need to strike a balance between security and aesthetics.”

According to BeSafe, if installed well and maintained, fencing can be beneficial to a school for a number of reasons. It can force people to respect the grounds that the fence is protecting. It can also add safety and design to private grounds but it can also bring separation and tension to neighboring communities.

“I really trust that Morgan is doing everything that it needs to do to protect the community, preserve the name, and the legacy of Morgan State University,” Townes said. “If there are any suggestions from the community I feel like Morgan is open to hearing any alternative solutions or additional suggestions that they can utilize to make the school better because again Morgan State is a HBCU institution however it is centered around community.”

Morgan is now seeking state and federal funding to help assist with the $14.3 million additions, which consist of the fencing, more security personnel and more cameras. This would be in addition to Morgan’s safety enhancement plan, now estimated at $22.5 million.

“Our goal is to ensure that we are living in a safe and secure community,” Wilson said.

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“So we can be about the business of, if you will, preparation, progress, growth, and getting you [students] ready to fly out of Morgan and get on that world stage and do what you were in training here to do, and that is to be competitive with anyone, at anyplace, at any time.”

Additional reporting by Penelope Blackwell of The Baltimore Banner

This story is published in partnership with The Baltimore Banner as part of the Baltimore News Collaborative, a project exploring the challenges and successes experienced by young people in Baltimore. The collaborative is supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation ( News members of the collaborative retain full editorial control.

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