Morgan State University is investigating an incident in which a student said she was the target of repeated sexually suggestive comments from a campus security guard, and that school officials were initially dismissive of her concerns.

Sya Mckay arrived on campus last week to take a midterm exam, and said she was met, once again, with inappropriate comments from the security guard. She spoke up in a social media post, and it went viral.

Mckay, a 23-year-old political science major, has a class on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the university’s Behavioral and Social Sciences Center in Martin D. Jenkins Hall. Since mid-February, a security guard in the building, who appears to be in his 60s, has repeatedly made sexual comments to her, said Mckay. He’s made comments about her body shape and said he gets aroused when he sees her legs, according to Mckay.

She said she finally mustered the courage to speak to officials with the Department of Political Science on Thursday but felt that her concerns were dismissed by an administrative staff member. That prompted Mckay to post a roughly five-minute video to TikTok, sharing her experience. As of Monday, it’s been viewed 1.6 million times and garnered over 225,000 likes.

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“Being a young woman in this generation, men make comments all the time, and I’m not the type of person to, you know, throw the book at someone every time they make one mistake, but due to like the build-up, this was like the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Mckay said, referring to how Morgan staff responded to her complaint.

“She completely dismissed me. It wasn’t even really the situation itself. It was really the response that I got from the administration that caused me to make the video,” Mckay said.

Mckay explained that, while taking her exam on Thursday, she overheard the administrative assistant say, “There’s a student in here, and she is claiming the security guard has been making sexual advances at her, but I know him, and I’ve known him, and I don’t believe he did any of that.”

Mckay said she couldn’t finish her exam. She went back to the department chair’s office and asked the administrative assistant if she was insinuating that Mckay was lying. Her response was, “‘Well, umm, no, I’m just saying I don’t believe he would do that because he’s worked here for a while,’” Mckay said, adding that she felt violated and angry at the administration for not taking her seriously.

On Friday, Morgan emailed students about alleged improper behaviors described in the video and shared the same statement online:

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“The existence of a troubling, widely-circulated video on social media was brought to the attention of the MSU Police Department and University Administrators. The alleged improper behaviors described in the video do not represent Morgan’s core values, and the matter is currently being thoroughly investigated. The safety and well-being of the members of our community is and will continue to be a top priority,” the statement said.

“Should any member of the Morgan community need assistance, we encourage them to engage with available resources, including the Counseling Center, Title IX, and MSUPD.”

Mckay said Sunday she’s spoken to a staffer from the university’s Office of the President, who reached out to set up a meeting for Monday. She also said she had an initial conversation with a Title IX coordinator within university’s Office of Diversity & Equal Employment Opportunity, where students can submit complaints related to sexual misconduct.

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights investigated Morgan for its handling of a 2014 sexual assault, part of a wave of scrutiny into how universities nationwide handle allegations of of sexual assault.

More than 90% of students at Morgan do not know how to report sexual assault or harassment on campus anonymously, the university’s student-run newspaper, the MSU Spokesman, reported in May.

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Mckay, who is also a clothing brand influencer for the fashion site Pretty Little Thing, said some people commenting on her now viral post criticized her choice of clothing. She said that shouldn’t matter.

“On Morgan State’s campus a lot of people dress up in the sense that it’s a fashion-forward type of school. So people wear trendy clothes, like, you know, graphic tees, jeans, dresses, skirts. But I’ve had on very plain outfits and he still made comments at me,” Mckay said. “I really just want people to know that they should speak up in situations like this. And in a school and work environment, there’s boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed.”

She also said wants other girls to feel safe while on campus and she wants a better vetting system for who they’re hiring for security.

“I just want Morgan to rectify the situation by impressing upon the staff to do better here,” Mckay said.

Penelope Blackwell is a Breaking News reporter with The Banner. Previously, she covered local government in Durham, NC, for The News & Observer. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Morgan State University and her master’s in journalism from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

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