A timely follow up to concerns of student safety

An illustration of a bullet. Illustration courtesy of Gordon Johnson

MADELEINE LUCCHETTI | OPINION COLUMNIST | mlucchet@butler.edu

Campus-wide anxiety seems to have peaked in the past week, possibly as a result of the Collegian’s viral news report and opinion column “Untimely Warning,”which covered the Oct. 17 armed robbery on 44th Street. Whether in total sunshine or by the dim light of Butler’s lousy light poles, criminal violence is a reality.

Students, parents and community members shared the Collegian’s pieces over a thousand times on Facebook, bringing to light the perturbing lack of communication between Butler’s Department of Public Safety and the community.

Paranoid Dawgs have since received two Dawg Alert blasts. The first alarmed us Oct. 23 after multiple senior houses on Berkley and 44th reported hearing gunshots: “Reports of a gun shot [sic] near campus were unfounded, was an argument involving breaking glass bottles only, no students involved.

It is confirmed that a bullet, unfired, was recovered at the same time as this alert. Livid students demanded details and wondered if evidence had been found to support or deny the broken bottle theory. The bullet is reported to be the one found in the yard of the senior house who called BUPD’s emergency number. It is unknown if this incident is connected to the Oct. 17 robbery.

The second blast, delivered Oct. 29, concerned power outages in Apartment Village. By the time student residents had received news of the outage, power had already been restored. Captain Obvious saved the day with a follow-up alert, assuring everyone that the lights were back on– 20 minutes after the fact. Hardly a “lightbulb moment”.

In an email, BUPD Chief John Conley confirmed discovery of the bullet, but also offered clarifying information: “It could be connected, but not sure because that bullet had never been fired and we found no evidence of fired rounds. The officers did find glass but nothing was confirmed as to what caused the sounds. Our Dawg Alert listed it as unfounded, meaning that we could not verify anything but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, so everything is possible.”

It’s easy for us to demand instant, complete news coverage. But from the role of law enforcement, exposing details of a case can compromise its investigation. Policing any student body is often a thankless job, especially in handling the outcry of emotionally-charged students when questions are left unanswered.  

Some of these questions were formally prepared for discussion by the Student Government Association. Their senate meeting on Oct. 24 was streamed over Instagram Live, and dozens of students tuned in after it was announced that BUPD was slated as guest stars. But their appearance has been postponed; a follow-up interview with robbery victims caused scheduling overlap.

Said interview was held on the third floor of Atherton, attended by Conley, fellow officers and the victims. The officers mentioned they could not stay totally transparent with the victims, as revealing points of information could put the robbery case at risk.  

First-year Khi Calloway, digital media production major, was present at the house in question during the Oct. 17 armed robbery.

She expressed appreciation after meeting with Butler officers, who stressed that the case will remain open until solved — even years down the road, when the victims will have graduated.

“They did make it a point to tell us that this currently is their number one case, and they have all resources they possibly can working on it,” Calloway said.

Casey Weider is a resident of the robbed house and a junior marketing major. He conceded, like Calloway, that he is confident in BUPD’s efforts since the scarring day.

“[BUPD’s intentions] seemed very genuine, but this is way too important for the university to stay quiet,” Weider said.

Until I reached out via email to Student Affairs, the administration has seemingly stuttered over both the robbery and the Dawg Alert. Many students waited to hear from President Jim Danko, but he was likewise silent.

Hardly a surprise. His mass emails are reserved for matters such as panicking over Chris Holtman’s betrayal, or pepping up last week to thank us for a “successful homecoming.”

Dean of Student Life Anne Flaherty, and Dean of Student Services Sally Click offered what they titled as “overarching thoughts” on campus safety via email, but they did not expand on why Student Affairs has been publicly uninvolved in these issues.

We are aware that SGA has invited BUPD to engage with students at the Nov. 1 Senate meeting which will be a livefeed through their Instagram story. BUPD has also been invited to engage with students in town halls at our residence halls and Greek houses,” Flaherty and Click wrote.

It’s admirable that Student Affairs is supporting the efforts of BUPD, but it’s still odd that no statement has acknowledged their own responsibility as informers to the student body. BUPD has taken matters into their own hands, likely without outsiders’ direction.

“We need to recognize no one entity possesses all the facts, rumors abound, and the ‘truth’ is out there for us to discover together. We appreciate BUPD being open to hearing and understanding student concerns. Equally, students need to be open to hearing the challenges and responsibilities that our police officers face,” the email read.

No one wants to discover the truth “together,” that’s insane. When students are the ones sniffing around for literal bullets, it’s gone too far.  

Maybe the Community of Care should be “open to hearing” the complaints of countless student drivers, who have been ticketed for parking illegally on campus during late-night study sessions. It’s unnerving to skitter home at 2 a.m., when darkness is barely broken by few-and-far-between lampposts. Oddly enough, many students would rather pay a ticket than risk being held at gunpoint.

“Being members of a Community of C.A.R.E., all of us at Butler – students, staff, and faculty – are responsible for being alert to our surroundings and immediately reporting suspicious behaviors. This vigilance can reduce the opportunity for others to do harm to us, to others, and to our property,” Flaherty and Click said.

It’s hard not to be “alert” when every sense is tingling on your pitch-black walk home. Community of C.A.R.E. doesn’t mean playing Sherlock, it means holding doors for first years during Welcome Week.

Being “vigilant” often means witnesses are at risk of being on scene during a potentially dangerous crime. “Vigilance” is useless against a loaded gun. It’s not our job to prevent crime. It’s our job (or our parents’) to pay six figures in hopes that we get a decent college education. Paranoia while rushing to our overpriced classes at 11 a.m. is unhealthy, and abnormal.

It’s time to prioritize safety and minimize superfluous punishing of students for matters like parking tickets. And it’s time for administration to pour some of Butler’s ridiculous cash flow into things that matter. There’s not much in the limelight, since, well, there’s not much light at all. Campus safety should be illuminated.

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2 Comments

  1. Hussein Mohamed said:

    Thank you for saying a lot of things that needed to be said. Lovely piece!

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