Towson community frustrated with negative attention over racial issues

"I think he's trying to push a certain mindset that has lost its cachet and popularity," said Victor Collins, an assistant vice president who oversees diversity efforts. "He seems mired in a bygone era."

In his age group, Heimbach's views are unusual. In a survey of racial attitudes among the Millennial generation in 2010, Pew Research Center found about 9 of 10 were accepting of interracial marriage, far more so than in older generations. Pew also found that a majority of Millennials say that at least some of their friends are of a different race, while older Americans are less likely to have cross-racial friendships.

Still, students said it was obvious that racism is a concern, which is why they attended the unity rally.

"Segregation is more of a class issue now," said Brandon Thomas, a graduate student from Tennessee. "But it's definitely still here — racism and all those 'isms.' That's why I'm here, to show support against all those things."

Potok, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said that universities should address the issue of racism head on, and that rallies like the one Towson held can help the campus return to a feeling of normalcy.

"The worst thing the school can do is pretend it's not happening," he said. "That really does give aid and comfort to the racists."

Heimbach, who grew up in Montgomery County, says he had liberal opinions until about the age of 15, when he got into the writings of Pat Buchanan, the conservative former presidential candidate. He said he believes that the white race and culture is under attack by immigration and race mixing.

After he graduates in May with a degree in U.S. history, Heimbach said he plans to look at graduate schools or perhaps join the priesthood.

Heimbach said a few in his group did a patrol Sunday night "without much fanfare," and did a few last semester, too. He said they did not see any crime on Sunday.

University officials distributed pamphlets to news media representatives Tuesday containing the school's official response to the controversy. In it are pictures of students holding signs saying "#TUstands4" ideals such as courage, justice and integrity.

Students at the rally spoke favorably of Towson's president, who has also been in the news recently after the governor and comptroller criticized her decision to eliminate two men's sports teams. The governor this week announced funding and a plan to save the baseball team.

Loeschke grinned as students spoke of their love and respect for her.

Addressing students, Loeschke said she had never been more proud of them.

"No one told you to have this event," she said. "It captures every core value we have on this campus."

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporter Jon Meoli contributed to this article.