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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 19, 2019   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

Editorial: Office of Public Safety must keep students informed

An Ithaca College student reported a suspicious person wandering near the Athletics and Events Center at approximately 6 p.m. Sept. 6. Following the report, the Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management and members of the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office conducted a thorough search of the area. At approximately 8:25 p.m., officers determined there was no on-campus threat and sent out an Intercom notice to the members of the campus community alerting them of the incident.

In the two and a half hours between the initial report and the campus-wide notice, students, staff and parents received little to no information regarding the potential threat level of the “suspicious” individual. The Intercom notice encouraged students with questions or concerns to speak with their resident assistants, who also received minimal information about the situation.

The increase in police presence on campus Friday evening quickly raised concerns among campus community members. The sheer number of law enforcement vehicles on the scene led many to seek information via other students and college-related social media pages. This only furthers the likelihood that false information spreads to students and parents alike.

In the hours following, officers did not identify what deemed the person in question “suspicious” or note if the person was armed. In an era where threats of gun-related violence in schools are common, officers must take measures to minimize the spread of false information.

Public Safety’s delay in releasing information about the suspicious person early Friday evening is understandable due to the sensitive nature of the situation. Following the report, Public Safety officers increased patrol presence in the area and moved quickly to get the situation under control. However, Public Safety is not only tasked with assessing potentially dangerous situations but also ensuring that
students on campus feel safe and secure.

The incident came just days after a shooting on The Commons in which one person was shot. After the shooting, the college released a notification informing the campus community of the shooting. While no students were harmed, the event raised concerns about shootings in the area. As concerns of gun-related violence occupy the minds of students on campus, it is crucial that the college work to maximize safety through transparent and timely communication with students and their families.