Enraged and Ashamed
When I woke up this morning, I checked my email and found this gem in my inbox:
“To the members of the Trinity College community:
Last night, at approximately three a.m. a student was assaulted and injured while walking on Allen Pl. The student was assaulted by several persons, but it is unclear whether the suspects in this assault were Trinity or non-Trinity students. Hartford Police and Trinity College Campus Safety are working together to investigate this incident further. Campus Safety would like to remind all members of the community to utilize on campus transportation, and walk in pairs or groups when possible.”
Initially, I brushed the e-mail off. Unfortunately, basic and petty assault/mugging incidents aren’t too uncommon, and the description was too vague to have anything to really discuss. The message tersely summed up the fact that something had happened, and it reiterated the common advice of using the campus shuttle and walking in groups if possible. Old news.
It wasn’t until a student sent a follow up email that any of us understood the magnitude of what “injured” actually meant. The student who sent the email is a close friend and fraternity brother of the attacked student, and his account of what happened literally made me sick–sick at the physical description of the violence, but also sick at the way my institution handled the situation.
Here are the basic facts that came out of the follow up. A car full of six individuals essentially jumped two students as they were walking on the edge of campus. The “assaulted and injured” student is currently in the hospital undergoing facial reconstruction surgery for a shattered jaw and broken eye sockets, and he also has a broken rib. According to his friend, he was beaten to the point of being unrecognizable and “within an inch of his life.” His friend managed to escape by sprinting away despite his assailants chasing after him as he ran. A woman driving by in a car saw the attack and honked until the attackers fled. The attackers were not Trinity students. The student who sent the reply made the point that, “if another car had not pulled up and started honking, he probably would have been killed,” and I think he’s completely right.
This is sickening on a number of levels. I’m upset that anyone would do something like that to another human being. I’m upset that this happened on my college campus. I’m upset that my school’s initial response marginalized this incident and by doing so insulted the student, his family, and his friends. I’m upset that school resources are spent on rethinking social policies on campus instead of on on keeping students safe on campus. I’m upset that President Jones and the trustees of the college are clearly more concerned with image than with actually protecting and listening to the students on campus.
Yes, the administration apologized later in the day for the initial email. Yes, I understand that there are more complicated issues at hand here. Yes, I understand that my college is trying to improve a historically tenuous relationship with the surrounding community. Yes, I understand there are budgetary issues and you have to appease donors and alumni alike. Yes, I understand that moves made by an institution are inherently political and have the potential to incite contempt from a number of different factions (students, faculty, trustees, etc).
I’m also calling bullshit.
It’s time to step up your act, Trin Admins. The students have had enough. Is it really going to take a someone almost dying to garner an effective response? The campus shuttle has spotty service, campus safety officers are historically lethargic and unhelpful, and almost everyone on campus has some kind of “close call” story. I understand that it’s a difficult job, but seriously?? Something needs to change. This was a targeted and undeserved attack on two students brought on by nothing but malice. When students ask to close the campus at night, we’re not being pretentious assholes. We’re not trying to ignore the community around us. We’re simply asking to be safe, and it makes sense. How is it that under the new social policy the administration wants to know the names of all of the students in any registered party, but when we as students call for a check in point to enter campus at night we’re framed as closed minded and unwelcoming?
I didn’t personally know the student who was attacked– I had never met him or had a class with him, but that doesn’t change the fact that this incident enrages me. It could have been anyone. I cannot imagine what the attacked student’s close friends and family are dealing with right now, and my thoughts and prayers go out to all of them.
Something needs to be done, and it’s a shame it took this to actually get a reaction.