Students who tuned in to Fox 29 on April 11 learned something about Temple that they didn’t already know: That graffiti threatening to recreate the Columbine shootings on April 20, the 14th anniversary, had been discovered in a Gladfelter Hall bathroom in March.
The following day, a TU Advisory was issued verifying the news story and guaranteeing that security is the “top priority and every effort is being made to keep [the university’s] students, faculty and staff safe.”
It’s always refreshing to hear that university officials are concerned for the well-being of students and that Campus Safety Services is taking this threat seriously enough to cooperate with Philadelphia Police, Philadelphia Police’s Homeland Security Unit and the FBI on the investigation. But neglecting to inform the student body with this information is a violation of the implicit agreement between the university and the students who populate it.
The relationship between both parties is intended to be one of symbiosis, where both need each other to receive the benefits they seek. This only works if a certain level of transparency is maintained, especially on matters of such undeniable importance.
The university does have a legitimate interest in preventing a sense of hysteria. But that does not mean withholding all information relevant to the safety of students. It merely means taking care to present the information in a timely and forthcoming manner, rather than waiting until the story breaks on the nightly news.
Assistant Vice President for University Communications Ray Betzner described threats of this nature as “extremely rare.” Additionally, it would be fair to say these threats will probably never amount to anything more than they are on the surface – scribblings on a bathroom wall. But the university still owes it to the student body to report what it knows. The recent stabbings at Lone Star College as well as the only slightly older tragedies at Virginia Tech and Texas A&M reveal quite clearly that the ivory towers of academia are not immune to senseless violence.
The TU Advisory went on to say that, “Any actionable information that results from this investigation will be shared with our students, faculty, and staff.” That commitment to open chanenels of communication should have been instated in the first place.