Panel at town hall meeting addresses security concerns

JAMES SCHWENDENER/The Campus

Students voiced concerns about campus security and recent criminal activity in a town hall meeting last night.

The meeting, hosted by Allegheny Student government, took place in the Campus Center lobby.

Joe DiChristina, Dean of Students and Kazi Joshua, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life, fielded questions from students while the president and vice president of ASG, Shane Downing and Jamie Havens, moderated.

The recent rash of criminal incidents that occurred over the first week of October incited the discussion.

DiChristina specifically discussed the air gun shooting at Pelletier Library that occurred on October 4 that resulted in damage to windows, as well as a theft that occurred at McKinley’s on October 8 and reports of a suspicious person shouting obscenities at female students and attempting to enter Ravine on October 5 and 6, respectively.

DiChristina reported an arrest of three individuals in the theft and progress in locating the suspicious person.

“For as long as I have been Dean of Students, I have never seen something like this happen,” DiChristina said in reference to the spat of incidents so close together. “But we can’t prevent some unusual events from happening.”

Though the panel acknowledged the serious and unusual nature of the events, they also indicated that part of the problem was rumors and misinformation.

“We have fantastic technology, but afterthoughts can go very far before we have the chance to correct them,” Joshua said in reference to rumors spread via Facebook and text messaging.

While he denied a serious lack of communication between students and the college regarding security, he did acknowledge issues with keeping everyone informed about everything that is going on.

“The trick is figuring out ‘how much of what we do to care for a student in distress… do we commnicate with everybody?’” Joshua said. “What kind of system can we have to convey critical info to those it concerns?”

Though the meeting began with a discussion of recent criminal incidents on campus, it came to focus less on what had already happened and more on the college’s plans for the future.

Despite the room being far from full, students in attendance kept the discussion, voicing concerns about security on campus and suggesting ways it might be improved.

“We learned a lot from the students,” said Joshua, pointing to suggestions about the availability of security call boxes and insufficient lighting as examples.

Students also discussed the idea of bringing security cameras to campus at length.

“In the past, [installing security cameras] was not a direction we would take,” DiChristina said. “What do security cameras do to our sense of place?”

“They change the nature and character of the community.”

Despite this wariness, DiChristina put the issue of security cameras on his agenda for the upcoming Student Life committee meeting.

Joshua, too, was wary of making drastic changes to how Allegheny approaches security.

“What kind of Allegheny are we creating for the future?” Joshua said. Instead, he encouraged students to extend the values of the Honor Code into “every sphere of [their] lives.”

“If we can be trusted with academic integrity, why can’t we be trusted with social, cultural and material integrity?”

Joshua acknowledged, however, that most students were honorable and that such problems were not widespread.

“I still primarily believe in the character of Allegheny.”

Response to the town hall meeting was roundly positive.

“I appreciate the initiative taken by Allegheny College to ensure the security of students,” said Jessica Bonzo, ’14.

Havens and Downing, who moderated the panel, were equally pleased.

“I thought it was a big success,” Downing said, pointing to the new ideas brought by students to DiChristina and Joshua as a victory.

“The people who were really concerned were here,” Havens said. She suggested that students who still have concerns should contact ASG.