By Yaasmeen Piper
“You need to feel safe,” said campus Chief of Police William Parrish. “You need to feel that the law enforcement cares about you and your safety. That is why we are here today.”
It has been three months since the murder of Domino’s Pizza driver Richard LaBar and two since the stabbing on the Shawnee Quad. Students still feel on edge. Students were able to let out their concerns at the anticipated town hall meeting on March 1.
Along with Parrish, Kenneth Long, vice president of administration and finance, and President Marcia Welsh were joined by representatives of the Monroe County District Attorney, Pennsylvania State Police or PSP and Stroud Regional Police.
Even with the big lineup of local law enforcement officials, most of the problems were directed toward the university.
“I’m really mad at the fact that it takes a situation like this for y’all to start increasing patrolling and policing,” said Shaquwan Davis-Boone, the victim of the stabbing on Jan. 31.
“As a student at ESU I should feel comfortable walking around and doing whatever I want. I shouldn’t have to change my direction when I see a group of men somewhere on the corner or something like that on campus. I shouldn’t have to change my direction. I know everybody on campus.”
Davis-Boone says that after the incident, the university focused more on cleaning-up the situation rather than reaching out to him.
“The next day y’all started giving out tours like it was nothing. I couldn’t get a letter from the damn president to see how I was,” he said. “It’s really on my mind to transfer right now. I have so much anxiety, I can’t trust nobody. So, why am I freakin’ on this damn campus?”
Davis-Boone’s statement was met with silence and eventually he removed himself from meeting.
That did not stop students from demanding an answer for Davis-Boone even in his absence.
President Welsh responded that she “knew there was a victim” but was unaware who the victim was.
“I did not know the student,” Welsh said. “I would have to have the information and the appropriate personnel contact the student.”
The audience erupted in murmurs and sighs. One student spoke into the microphone and asked, “You don’t know the student involved in the stabbing on your campus?”
Welsh responded that she would reach out to Davis-Boone, but those who said they knew the victim were not buying it.
“The stress that I was going through knowing he got stabbed, running to the union,” said a member of Kappa Alpha PSI who referred to himself as the victim’s older brother. “You can just imagine what he was going through. So, for you to say that you don’t know him—even if you don’t know him, behind the scenes you could have reached out at some point.”
The town hall conversation shifted to the university’s late response to notifying students about the stabbing.
After the stabbing which was around 10 p.m., students did not receive a ESU campus alert email until nearly 1 a.m. There was no text alert.
During this time, some students were told their dormitories were on lockdown and they could not leave their rooms. Parrish responded that the lockdown was not issued by the police or the university.
Long added that the university did not send out an immediate alert because the incident was not found as a threat to students.
“[ESU] only sends alerts when there is a threat to the campus community,” he said. “[During the robberies last year] there was an alerts sent out within the hour because it was deemed a threat to campus.”
David Bousquet, who is responsible for undergraduate recruitment, asked what is was that attracted these “bad actors” to campus.
“I don’t think that there’s anything that’s attracting there bad actors as you will to this campus community” said Kim Lippincott, Monroe County district attorney detective and a member of its drug task force.
“I just think that, unfortunately, there have been two really bad incidents. I do think there are somethings that people on campus can do. You can stay more proactive about stuff, listen to your gut. If you feel like somebody should not be on your campus report it.”
Parking and proper transportation was another pressing issue of the meeting.
Certain parking passes force students to park in specific areas.
Some of these areas are far from their classrooms which can be especially unsettling for students walking back to their cars at night.
Parrish and Long responded that the university is exploring more “relaxed parking” especially on weekends.
Even those who turn to the university escort service say there is a lack of proper response from campus police.
A mother said her daughter had called for a campus escort and it took campus police 25 minutes before they arrived to take her back to her dorm.
“It depends on what’s going on when we get the call,” said Parrish.
Most of the time it’s within five minutes but it all depends on what we’re doing at the time. We respond to all different kinds of means on investigation.”
With the recent mass shooting in Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., students also voice their worries about a possible active shooting.
According to President Welsh it is impossible to lockdown an entire university and as an open campus, anyone is free to roam.
There is also no way to lock the classroom doors in Stroud Hall from the inside, only through the outside.
A student discussed adding ID scanners to buildings similar to the ones seen in the dorms.
Long said that the university had discussed this before but it is a “slow process” and there is also a lack of proper funding.
“It’s a little more challenging for a [university] to do those because of the number of buildings we have and the number of entrances and exits we have within those buildings to be able to try to keep those controlled,” said Long.
He also states that this is not something that just ESU deals with.
According to Long, many universities of ESU’s size or larger face difficulties on how to approach securing buildings.
“I talked to some of my colleagues down in West Chester about a similar thing,” Long said.
“We don’t have a solution on that. To be very candid, there is not solution.”
Parrish said campus police are planning an active shooting drill with Stroud Regional Police and PSP for May.
The following day ESU released an update detailing the university improvements.
This included providing timely communication with the campus community after incidents, reviewing communication procedures with resident directors and advisors and increasing foot patrols on campus.
Yet, some students feels as though the town hall meeting was still unsuccessful.
“Looking at these faces as they walk out of here is sad,” said freshman Airyanna Elkins.
“People are crying, people are hurt because they don’t feel that their school is listening to them. People don’t feel like their president is listening to them especially since she didn’t know the victim’s name. I am in complete and utter shock by that.”
Sophomore Brandon Teel states that the administration was ineffective in answering student concerns, leaving them still feeling uneasy.
“I want to see the students take a stance and hold the administration accountable for their actions,” he said.
“The students are the future leaders and we need to stand our ground.”
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