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In the Wake of Threats, a Call for Community

This last week has been a horrifying one for colleges across the nation and for the Tri-Co in particular. First, there was the mass shooting in Oregon that ended the lives of nine innocent members of Umpqua Community College. Then, on Saturday, there was the tragic accident that claimed the life of a Swarthmore student. And Sunday, the FBI warned Philadelphia area colleges about another potential mass killing.

This has been a sad week for us all, but it has also been a time of reflection. Much ink has been spilled on the issue of gun control, but I want to bring forward another, perhaps more pressing, issue for the Haverford community: Campus Safety.

In the wake of the FBI announcement that an anonymous user on the website 4chan had posted that he or she would attack a Philadelphia area college at 2 p.m. Monday, many students from area colleges have questioned what, if anything, their on-campus safety divisions could do to stop a mass killing on campus. At Haverford, students have criticized the administration’s decision not to close campus on Monday, as well as the late dissemination of the threat warning. Students have also complained that Campus Safety cannot protect us.

While I agree that Campus Safety could have notified us sooner of the potential danger, and that there are other valid criticisms to be made, vitriol from the student body helps no one. The threat was vague and did not target a specific college. Because of the recent events in Oregon, the FBI is taking everything seriously, but even they say the threat is likely not credible.

We have to trust Campus Safety to make the decision whether to close the school. They have our best interests in mind and would never keep the college open if they believed it would put Haverford students in danger. No other area colleges have cancelled classes. Moreover, it should not be Campus Safety’s job to protect us from armed attacks. It is the job of federal, state, and local law enforcement to protect us. If Campus Safety has to get involved, the government has already failed.

We all have to remember that safety is not safety if it comes at the cost of our values and our liberty. Once we change our behavior because of a vague threat, we cede power to those who wish to control us. While there are some ways we must be vigilant, such as not letting strangers into the dorms, we also have to respect that Campus Safety and the Administration are trying to do what’s best for the College. If they believe that canceling classes is an overreaction, we should trust that it is not a decision they take lightly.

Trust, concern, and respect are the basis of our community, and those values are what make Haverford the unique place we love. To stop trusting Campus Safety is to lose our hold on those values. To lose those values is to become untethered from our community. Rather than beginning to cast suspicion on one another, we need to come together at difficult moments like these. The values espoused in the Honor Code matter more during difficult times than during calm ones. Threats like these are meant to tear communities apart, so the best way to fight them is to come together.


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