Last Thursday, the campus was thrown into a state of anxiety after a lengthy and detailed email, sent to the entire university community, told of a “possible noose” found in the subbasement of Healy Hall. When word broke the next day through campus media that the rope was, in fact, not a noose, students were relieved.
Everyone was happy to hear that what was thought to be a violent symbol of racial discrimination was actually a rope used for “legitimate purposes.” But the overblown university response, along with a lack of followup, is becoming a pattern for bias-related incidents.
After the two major episodes this semester – the Nazi graffiti found in New South and Darnall Halls and the supposed noose and accompanying racist graffiti found in the tunnels – Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson and Vice President for University Safety Rocco DelMonaco sent alarming emails to the university community describing the crimes and the steps the administration planned to take in response. But this was the last time we heard anything from the administration on the matters.
Following the Nazi drawings, the university failed to bring the student body up to speed and inform them that the situation had been resolved and the student responsible was identified. The Hoya reported continuing details of the incident, but the entire student population should have been made aware via direct university communication.
Likewise, once officials realized they had found a climbing rope rather than a noose, a subsequent message ought to have been relayed to the community members who were waiting for answers. Without clarification, students were left concerned and uninformed.
The initial communication from administrators must only be the first email students receive about a bias-related incident. Olson and DelMonaco should also inform the campus community whenever more information is uncovered in a case, so long as it does not compromise the investigation. This common-sense suggestion would ensure that students are not left in the dark.
With the administrative updates on these cases virtually nonexistent, student concern could be the next casualty. Cynics may find little incentive to take a startling broadcast seriously if a rope “used for climbing activity” ended up the unwitting culprit the last time around.
The university’s handling of the “possible noose” discovery was unacceptable. From urgently alerting students about unclear situations to their unsettling lack of follow-through, administrators dropped the ball. In the future, Olson and DelMonaco should have a better idea of whether an incident is bias-related; should they err again, they must notify the university community promptly.
It took about 24 hours for a “possible noose” to turn into a rope “used for climbing activity,” but how long will it take for students to regain confidence in the administration’s responses to bias-related incidents?”