The atmosphere on campus was tense, evident through the stillness in the air. Students walked to class as usual, though many wore expressions of concern and walked in silence. Some students didn’t make it that far, confined in their dorms or miles away in their homes. Rider was less than its bright, lively self this past Monday. The reason was simple, finite — fear.
An email to students on both campuses on Sunday described a vague threat of violence at some college in the Philadelphia area. On the heels of the Oregon community college mass shooting, some students heard this notice with apprehension.
Rider’s administration handled the situation well. They alerted students to the threats in a timely manner. Extra Public Safety and Lawrence Township and Princeton police officers patrolled the campuses, helping create a feeling of calm. Administrators did not cancel classes or stop our education, but rather were kind to those not comfortable enough to attend. This week, Rider did everything that it could to create a secure environment in the face of unsettling news.
The week before shone a spotlight on other security concerns. As many know, the man arrested in the recent incidents at West Village and Delta Phi Epsilon has been identified as Jon Cannon. The 24-year-old was apprehended and charged Friday. He is not a student.
But what many may not know is that, two years ago, Cannon was charged with trespassing on campus. Even more, he was creeping into dorm buildings, specifically West Village. However, authorities did not notify students or faculty. To our knowledge, no additional security measures were put in place. And this past month, he returned again.
While the university has succeeded in creating a reassuringly safe environment and should be commended for that much, it’s evident that there are flaws in this system. A man like Cannon should never be allowed to sneak into our dorms, especially not multiple times. Campus security needs to be tightened, particularly in the back of campus and around the entrances to campus.
It should not be as easy as waving at Public Safety to get in through the South Entrance. Officers should be checking all Rider ID’s and have a system in place for guests without one. Lately, they’ve been reading and checking each student ID, and that’s what they should be doing all the time. It shouldn’t only be done in response to incidents on campus, and it definitely shouldn’t stop now that a suspect has been caught. We need to be more aware of who is walking onto campus as well.
Of course, none of us wants our comfortable campus to turn into a police-lined, militant environment. Choosing security measures walks a fine line between safety and privacy. For example, installing more cameras deters crimes — but also presents the possibility of peering into private matters. We want to make the campus safer, so we never have a stranger’s hand on a sleeping student, but it’s difficult to decide what needs to be done. We often approach these situations like they’re black or white, but there are miles of gray in between.
One thing we can do is as simple as can be: We need to work together. Faculty, administrators and students all hold responsibility in making Rider a comfortable, safe place. As students, we need to stop evading Public Safety and stop focusing all of our time on avoiding trouble. We should try reporting trouble when we see it. Call Public Safety or the police if you’re uncomfortable or see something suspicious. We’re all an important part of the community here at Rider, and we need to band together to improve it, not run from it.
In the face of these issues and violence worries at campuses across the nation, including at Community College of Philadelphia, it is important for students to remember one thing: Don’t be consumed by fear. Even I was a little too scared to find myself in class this past Monday.
This was unacceptable.
There are certainly situations with credible, frightening threats in which it makes sense to hide. Safety is important and our lives are valuable. No one is suggesting to kick a gun man or run headfirst into danger simply because you can.
But when vague threats are made, their purpose is likely only to intimidate. We should never let people like that win.
We have a right to our education and we’ve paid a lot of money to sit in these seats. Fight the fear and paranoia. Come out as the victor in the face of violence.
The weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the Opinion Editor, Samantha Sawh.
Printed in the 10/07/15 issue.