The Voice: SHU must inform students of serious safety risks
The Setonian would like to offer our sincerest condolences to the family of Jessica Moore. As members of the Seton Hall community, which lost a dear and valued member, we share in your grief.
In the course of covering Saturday’s fateful and tragic shooting, The Setonian has heard students question the University’s immediate response and decisions, particularly with regard to securing Seton Hall’s campus and the decision to not use the Pirate Alert system to immediately inform students of the shooting.
We have extensively pursued those questions and, ultimately, we believe the University took appropriate action in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, especially in its decision to maintain its regular night-time campus access restrictions. Our one critique, however, arises in the University’s decision to not immediately notify students of the situation via the Pirate Alert system.
The Setonian, through e-mail and telephone interviews, spoke with Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Laura Wankel and Assistant Vice President for Public Safety and Security Patrick Linfante about the University’s immediate response to the shooting.
Wankel said she and her office were notified by Linfante of the shooting after students injured at the party returned to campus and sought the assistance of Public Safety. Public Safety then contacted the South Orange Rescue Squad and Police Department for assistance. Those responders, according to Wankel, were able to obtain information regarding the shooting from the students who returned to campus.
Wankel and Linfante further explained why the University did not restrict access to campus beyond normal procedure after 11 p.m.
“At the time of the East Orange shooting incident the SHU campus was already following its regular after 11 p.m. access control procedure that limits campus access to University personnel and authorized guests only,” Wankel said. “Students, some of whom were returning to campus after escaping from the shooting scene, needed to be allowed back onto the campus. Public Safety personnel were at the main gate to provide assistance to returning students.”
“The shooting occurred more than a mile from campus and was a random senseless act,” Linfante said. “We had received no information or had reason to believe that the shooter had any connection to SHU or that there was any ongoing threat to the University community.”
The Setonian agrees that the University should not have locked its gates without a credible threat to the campus. While the safety of students on campus is not something that should be overlooked, the University has an obligation to provide for the safety of its students who might be returning to campus as well. The students who were injured or fled from the scene should not have been left to fend for themselves in East or South Orange.
While we agree with the University’s decision not to restrict access to campus, The Setonian believes the Seton Hall has an obligation to notify its student body when incident of this magnitude occurs.
Saturday’s shooting proved, when students don’t receive verified information, rumors can run wild. In the course of trying to determine details in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, students heard so many different accounts that it was difficult to determine exactly what happened.
The Setonian believes that Seton Hall should have used the Pirate Alert system to notify students of the incident. The University did not need to give great detail, but enough to inform students of the severity of the situation, that campus was safe and if students were off campus, they should either make their way back to campus or remain where they are. Students did not receive a message that there was an incident, nor that the additional risk was minimal. As a result, students assumed the worst; those who heard things were left feeling uneasy and unsafe.
While we can appreciate the University’s desire to provide the most factual and accurate information possible, it has an equally, if not more, important duty to prevent and curtail the spread of misinformation.