Student and Mason community member testimony will play a central role in an official university Task Force formed to seek input on “interactions and experiences” with the University Police Department, the Office of the President announced on April 6.

In an email sent to students and other Mason community members, the office said that the Task Force had been formed so as to “foster a community where respect for all is the hallmark.”

The decision to create the task force came less than one month after university police arrested Mason student Abdirashid Dahir on felony abduction charges following an incident in Fenwick Library.

The email about the Task Force notes that “in addition,” the university has hired Tomlinson Strategies, LLC, “an external consulting firm specializing in institutional safety, security assessments and law enforcement issues,” to review the police policies and procedures that led to Dahir’s arrest.

All charges against Dahir were dropped. Finding’s of Tomlinson Strategies’ review will be made public “at the appropriate time,” according to the email.

Open meetings of the task force will be held tomorrow and next Wednesday, during which “any current Mason student, faculty or staff [member]” may speak for up to five minutes.

The Task Force will also accept written statements of up to 1,000 words in length at There is no “e” at the end of the address.

Interested persons can sign up to at

In an interview with Connect2Mason last Thursday, President Alan Merten said that the university was not presuming wrongdoing on the part of any party.

“I learned a long time ago that you don’t start an investigation assuming that one side is supplying all the facts,” said Merten.

Referring specifically to Dahir’s case, he remarked that “just because someone says something doesn’t make it true,” and said he was committed to gaining a full perspective on the situation.

“Our approach is that if there is a problem or a potential problem we have to get all the facts,” Merten continued. “There are about 40,000 people in this community. The Task Force is going to look at the whole area between law enforcement and the university.”

The Office of the President said that the Task Force’s goal would be to have a final report to President Merten by mid-June, though no announcement has come about when the findings will be made public.
Thomas Hennessey, the university’s chief of staff, said that he feels the relationship between police and students at Mason has generally been good in the past.

“There have been other incidents in the past, none of them necessarily serious, but it has raised the question ‘do we have the appropriate relationship between the university community and the police?’” he said.

Though only two meetings are currently planned, Hennessey said the Task Force will ultimately determine if more meetings are necessary in the future.

“I think Dr. Merten described it well when he said there’s really two objectives: The first is to give members of the university community an opportunity to describe both their experiences and their perceptions of the relationship and secondly for the Task Force to take those inputs and make some determintation as to whether anything needs to be done.”