Interim President Tom Bowling Responds to Criticisms of Frostburg State University

After a front page story in the April 18 edition of the Cumberland Times-News about a Frostburg woman’s complaint that crime has risen in the city and an April 20 editorial from the Cumberland Times-News linking that crime to allegedly declining standards at Frostburg State University, Interim President Tom Bowling responded in a guest commentary to the newspaper, which was shared in an email to the campus community. His column is below:


Recent statements about what some say they have “heard” about Frostburg State University and its students have prompted me to write. I feel the need to correct misinformation and share actions under way to address some of the recent events on and around our campus.

I want to be very clear: FSU has not “lowered its standards.” We have raised them, and the credentials of our entering students reflect that. In 2006, FSU’s admit rate – the percentage of those freshmen who are admitted compared to the percentage who applied – was 76 percent. In fall of 2015, we admitted only 63 percent. Over that time, the grade point averages (GPAs) and SAT scores of entering students have generally remained constant, even as the average SAT has declined statewide. And while still preliminary, the credentials of students planning to attend in fall 2016 appear very promising, with SATs and GPAs that outshine those of the past several years.

The demographics of our student body reflect those of Maryland, and FSU is meeting the same needs it has met for its entire history. We serve many students who are the first in their families to achieve a college degree or who could not otherwise afford to attend college. Students from Allegany County still come to FSU in larger numbers – 733 in the fall of 2015 – than from any other single jurisdiction in Maryland, despite our smaller population.

And all of our students, regardless of background, work with caring and exceptional faculty and staff who strive to provide them with the transformative experience that college can be. Our students’ dreams for a better future through education are the same as always.

We are proud of the diversity of our student body. Education is about gaining insight into the perspectives of those whose life experiences are very different from our own, and interactions with classmates from differing backgrounds is invaluable to learning. Cultural competence, the ability to understand the perspective of someone else, is of increasing importance in our world today and an expectation of employers.

We are deeply concerned, as is everyone in the community, about crime that puts us all, students included, at risk. We are committed to continuing our partnership with our local law enforcement agencies to meet this challenge.

We are also deeply concerned when some of our students’ behavior, either on- or off-campus, falls below our and our community’s expectations, especially when it poses a hazard. Violations are addressed through our student conduct system, beyond sanctions from the court system. The severity of the offense determines the consequences, including suspension or expulsion for the most serious cases. We are grateful for the cooperation of Frostburg City Police in sharing the names of those they arrest or cite. It gives us the opportunity, when those people turn out to be our students, to address their behavior through our conduct system.

Another key strategy is the cooperative arrangement between Frostburg and FSU in which FSU Police officers engage in community policing and patrols in the off-campus University neighborhood, as well as assist Frostburg Police in other situations. Since 2012, the University has also contributed up to $200,000 per year to local first-responder agencies.

We and our partner organizations work to keep communication open through regular meetings with allied law enforcement agencies, collaborative enforcement operations and the efforts of the Frostburg Community Coalition to address high-risk drinking from the middle school to college level.

Recent events have revealed the need for all of us to explore new strategies to confront unacceptable behavior. We are doing so. Our incoming president, Dr. Ron Nowaczyk, shares that commitment.

The issues are complex, and we need all of us working together to address them.

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