Q&A on Presidential Task Force

Posted: April 14, 2011 at 1:50 pm

By Robin Herron

The first hearing conducted by the Presidential Task Force seeking input from members of the Mason community on their interactions and experiences with University Police was held on April 12.

The task force heard comments from 11 people at the hearing. In addition, another 20 written responses have been received to date.

Another hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, April 20, from noon to 2 p.m. in Student Union Building II. Any current Mason student, faculty or staff member may schedule a time to make a brief statement, up to five minutes. To sign up to speak at the hearing, go to the following website:


Select an available date and time to speak and click on “I will speak.” You will then be asked to enter your name, email and current Mason status. To confirm your time and status click on the “I confirm I am a current Mason student, staff or faculty member.”  You will receive a confirmation email with the code to cancel or change your time slot.

Written statements (up to 1,000 words) may also be submitted to the task force at the following email address: taskforc@gmu.edu. (Please note there is no “e” at the end of the email address.) Written statements will be accepted until April 25.

Task force co-chairs Peter Pober, chair of the Faculty Senate, and Rose Pascarell, associate vice president for University Life, answered questions about what led to the group’s formation and the process going forward.

Was the task force established in response to the incident that led to the arrest of Mason student Abdirashid Dahir in March (all charges against Dahir were later dropped) or was the task force already in the works?

The task force was prompted by the incident, but President Alan Merten clearly wants a discussion on how the police and the Mason community can most positively interact. The Mason community became very involved after the incident — more involved than it ever had been — and that was a tipping point. The president wants to get a gauge on community perceptions on campus.

What areas of the university are represented on the task force?

The Task Force provides a wide representative group to be part of the dialogue leading to the recommendations. It includes the Student Government president and representatives from the Staff Senate; the faculty (including members of the Department of Communication and Criminology, Law and Society); Human Resources and Payroll; the Campus Climate Committee; the Office of Equity and Diversity Services; the Provost’s Office; University Police; University Relations; and University Life.

How does the task force’s work differ from the consultant that was hired to look into police procedures, and what kind of information is the task force looking for in the public meetings and written statements?

We’re charged with listening to individuals who wish to speak on their own experiences, not second- or third-person. We don’t want to squelch any discussion — we’re there to listen. Our goal is to hear as many voices as we can during the time period allowed. So far, mostly students have signed up to speak, but we encourage faculty and staff to add their voices.

What will the interim report to the president include?

The interim report will detail where we’ve been and what additional information we need. We will cull the narratives of the individuals who have had contact with the police to summarize their experiences and overall perceptions. We expect to have the interim report ready in early May. It will be posted online for a two-week comment period. The final report with recommendations will be issued in mid-June. Then the president will decide what actions to take.

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