“Oh, I heard that this happened in a few other buildings. He’s been seen all over campus,” one student said knowingly.
“Wait, I didn’t know that!” another girl exclaimed, covering her mouth in shock.
“That is so scary…” another muttered, shaking her head.
This tense conversation was mumbled in a single Fine Arts classroom this week, though whispers on the subject can be heard all over campus. With news of the second sexual assault at West Village spreading, it makes sense that rumors are flying. However, the rumors do not stem solely from the incident — a huge contributor to the many false rumors is the inconsistent communication here at Rider.
Two Rider Alerts were issued this month in response to the two incidents at West Village, alerts that needed to reach the students’ screens. However, no one was informed about a break-in at the Delta Phi Epsilon house, an incident that some guess is connected to the others. The stated reason for not sending an alert was the incident not being reported until 12 hours after it occurred. However, this contradicts the policy for the first Rider Alert, which was reported nine hours after that incident occurred.
This decision to withhold information creates anxiety in students. Many think crimes are isolated to West Village, but the danger is creeping beyond that. This is an issue of student safety, and we have a need to know what crimes are being reported here.
Administrators have held meetings and open forums and maintain only to be following the Clery Act timely warning guidelines and their best judgment. In our opinion, this isn’t good enough. Their focus should be student safety, not public relations. If a crime is being reported, it should be shared, not withheld or shared only with those in the immediate area of the incident. Students are paying thousands of dollars to live on this campus. There is no reason that any of them should feel uneasy, especially as a result of withheld information.
As one anonymous senior said, “The more information the community knows, the better. I know that students are worried, and who is to say this won’t happen again?”
One way to slow the flow of rumors, as well as to meet student needs, would be to share crime reports in a way that is easily accessible. This could be a website or social media platform, such as Twitter or Facebook. If all available information is open to students, there would be no reason for fear-mongering as both the administration and the students would be on the same page. Students could also go to Public Safety and ask to view the records, but not many are aware of this and, unfortunately, it is more suspicious than a public, easy-to-view platform like the Internet.
Even though our campus usually feels very safe, there are still gaps that need to be filled. One change that would keep away unwanted visitors would be making sure that the Public Safety officers who guard the south entrance actually check for Rider IDs before allowing individuals on campus. In my two years on campus, I have had my ID read only once. At night, students should have to swipe into the south entrance kiosk for the car gate to open.
In regards to security at West Village, the handicapped-accessible doors take 13 seconds to close when timed with an iPhone stopwatch.Also, though it may not be entirely their fault, Public Safety can sometimes be slow to respond to calls or to send officers to locations. In dangerous situations, every minute lost is another chance for circumstances to escalate.
A resident of West Village also addressed these concerns.
“The doors of West Village are an issue, as they are slow to close,” this student said. “Anybody without an ID can sneak in behind someone. Also, given the location on campus, it is way in the back corner. The area feels deserted and there should be more security measures in place, such as a security guard at the front door. It could be much safer than it is now, and after these two incidents, no one wants a third one.”
However, it’s not fair to throw all of the blame solely on the university. When these incidents occur, it is important to remember that a student is never asking to be assaulted. That being said, it is still important to always lock your doors. Whether students are planning to be back in five minutes or are in the room, leaving the door open creates the possibility for a problem.
Students should be sure to call Public Safety or the police immediately if there is ever an incident or if they suspect dangerous activity.
Uneasiness is beginning to sink its claws into the minds of many individuals, and that is a problem. It should never be solely about protecting our brand — it should be about protecting our students.
As stated in the New Jersey Campus Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights, “A college or university in a free society must be devoted to the pursuit of truth and knowledge through reason and open communication among its members.”
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 09/30/15 issue.