By Alyssa Guevara, Guest Columnist
First, it started with the aggravated assault near D House. Then it was high levels of sexual assault just a few weeks into the academic session. Then it was the taping of doors and entering buildings. Then it was the camera inside the bathroom at a fraternity house. Then it was roofieing. Then a student got pushed off of a porch. Then it was animal cruelty. . . I could keep going, but I think you get the point. Now it is a stalker harassing mainly female students. When will it end?
I am writing this after receiving the alert that a suspect in question was taken into custody. Knowing this, I do not feel any safer.
I am a first-year student, and my introduction to college has been tumultuous, to say the least. When I pictured myself at college, never did I imagine that I would be afraid of walking less than a block back to my dorm, fearful that I could become a victim of a crime. It is hard not to fall into a state of despair, but things do not appear to be getting better. It is unhealthy for any of us to live like this.
Yes, I am aware that Campus Safety only has so much power, and that ultimately crimes committed by townsfolk are up to the jurisdiction of the Gettysburg Police, but that does not make me believe that they will solve these issues. If that were the case, campus safety wouldn’t need to patrol at night. I am also aware that we as the student body are only told so much information due to legislation like the Clery Act.
I am fearful. I am upset. But most of all, I am angry.
I am angry that there is still a lack of full transparency, even though myself and several other students met with President Bob Iuliano in the fall semester to address past issues and offer up recommendations to solve them. I am angry that people on this campus are targeted because of the color of their skin. I am angry that women are harassed because they are women. I am angry that I am scared to walk by myself when it starts to get dark because I am a person of color, and because I am a woman. I am angry that I even have to write this at all. This should not happen.
There are many grievances that I want to share with you about our school’s administration and the safety organization put in place. Although I do not believe that more officers will solve the issue of crime, there are ways that our current officers under Campus Safety can work to make this better.
The school and its safety program are falling apart at the seams. Every time a scary event like this happens, there are a few emails (if we even receive one) sent out and then that is the end of it. Where is the transparency? Where are the updates? Where are the consequences?
We are all aware of several students who continue to attend this school and walk free from committing literal crimes, such as sexual assault/harassment, and hate crimes, and yet they receive nothing more than a slap on the wrist. A file is opened (or added to) usually by Campus Safety or The Office of Title IX, the campus becomes aware of the incident (either from administration or word of mouth), and then that student gets away with it and receives no repercussions. No removal from sports, clubs or Greek life. Rinse and repeat. This is not justice.
My biggest concern is Campus Safety’s response time. I think practically every student is aware of this. Before I continue further, I want everyone to know that this is not a personal attack on any officer or student worker, this is a critique of the system as a whole.
The response time is absurd, to say the least. It took campus safety 23 minutes to get me an escort from Breidenbaugh back to my dorm hall. I had a friend come meet me, who was there faster than the officer was. It wasn’t until after I called to cancel the request, assuming that no one was going to help me, that I finally saw an officer. Although I am grateful that I did have someone with some level of protection with me, the anxiety I felt for those 23 minutes was unbearable. Every time I heard a door open or voices from other classrooms my heart quickened.
How is this safe? I understand that the officers were working on this case, but the entire time I was sitting and waiting for someone to come, all I could think about was that I needed to buy pepper spray.
We should not live in a world like this, but when it does happen we need to be prepared. This time, I was not because there was no information given out until after I was back in my room and away from the areas of criminal activity. The fact that I had to learn about this entire situation from a friend who saw it on Yik Yak is appalling. I should not have to learn about stalking or various other crimes on a social media app that is often used for toxicity and gossip.
Instead of learning upfront about what was going on, I had to see live updates from an app that I redownloaded after I deleted it months ago. This is highly concerning, all because Campus Safety dropped the ball on this.
Campus Safety is more concerned about handing out parking violations than responding to serious matters that pertain to the well-being of students. When we need them most, they do not prioritize us in a necessary matter.
I, unlike many other students, actually was aware of the Campus Shield app that was made for situations like this. However, because the marketing was so terrible and it was not placed in the Student Digest until right before it was released, the app’s introduction made no noise.
Had more students known about this app, it may have been easier for Campus Safety and later Gettysburg Police to aid terrified students and locate or apprehend the suspects. I do not know if this was done by one assailant or multiple because the update was so vague and unhelpful. I cannot even decipher if the messages on Yik Yak are accurate or not. It is difficult to determine who to believe. It is difficult to determine what is the truth.
What is the point of having an emergency app if the response time is no better than calling? Should not the marketed portable app be more efficient than calling? If there is virtually no difference, then I do not see the point in investing in the app. What the campus really needs is a better overnight team, but I am not even sure the college can afford it due to finances. Then again, they did just raise our tuition, so maybe they will put those extra thousands of dollars they will squeeze out of us to good use.
All in all, I am extremely disappointed. I want to see change. This is a matter of how much the current administration values the safety of its students. If we do not see adequate change when we return in the fall then I have no problem meeting with the administration again and demanding change. If this proves unhelpful again, I call upon the student community to form an alliance and protest.
I do not understand why security on this campus is so lax. The fact that members of the campus community joke about how terrible our safety system is should be enough of a motivator. And yet each time a new crime happens, no change comes from within. Clearly, whatever system is currently in place is not working.
It is hard to not have an impending sense of doom every time another incident is reported. I cannot help but wonder, am I next? Will there be another stalker, pervert or rapist coming after me? To exist as a woman is already exhausting, but to do so on this campus is a heavy burden to live with. All I want is for us to be safe and no one can guarantee that.
Although Gettysburg College is not unique in instances of crime, the high occurrences are a cause for definite concern. It is hard not to wonder, will we ever be safe? I am not sure what the best solution to this problem is. Is it better training for officers? Is it building gates to keep unwanted intruders out? Is it working with the borough’s police department? Is it overhauling our entire safety system and its procedures? I do not know what the answer is right now.
With a second arrest published to the community by Dean Anne Ehrlich earlier this semester, it is very hard to find hope. Although I do not know what the situation is, we do know that other students were/are concerned about the situation, presumably because they were witnesses. I do not know how much longer our administration can sit and do nothing until we force them to do something.
I cannot imagine how it must have felt for the students who were stalked when they realized what was going on. The thought of what that stalker could have done to anyone. . . I do not even want to hypothesize because it is so terrible. Nevertheless, I commend the students’ courage. We need courage on this campus. We need a change of culture. If we as a community truly want to see real change, it must start with ourselves.
When you see someone at a party harassing another person who is visibly scared or uncomfortable, step in. When you see an intoxicated person leaving with someone who appears to be predatory, step in. When you see behavior in your friends that is predatory or even criminal, STEP IN. Complicity is the executioner of justice. We need to all take up the courage to end this senseless violence. Change takes courage. I have faith that we can change, but it does not happen overnight. Choose to have courage. Choose to seek justice. Choose to be the change.
May 1, 2023