Geneseo students were recently alerted via e-mail that an unidentified man had been found in a women's bathroom in a central village residence hall on Jan. 25.
The e-mail, written by Celia Easton, dean of Residence Life, was sent to on-campus students last Thursday. Although Easton said she addressed the member of the residence hall involved in the incident on the day it happened, I do not understand why the university decided to wait a full four days to alert the rest of the Geneseo campus.
I do not doubt that the university holds the safety of its students in the highest regard. I am sure administrators wanted to make sure they had all the facts straight before worrying students. There is no excuse, however, for allowing so much time to pass before alerting students of the presence of a potentially dangerous man on our campus. If the university could notify the members of the affected residence hall that Sunday, why could they not notify the rest of the student body on campus as well?
Perhaps alerting other students about the incident could have aided University Police in learning more about this man and how he was able to get into one of the residence halls. It is possible that students in other halls had seen him as well and could help catch the perpetrator. Since most students were not informed of the incident until several days later, however, they may not be able to help police with the investigation.
I had heard about the incident from friends before I received the e-mail, but I was not sure what to believe. I assumed that if there had been any danger, the university surely would have notified the students immediately. As a member of this residential community, I was very frightened and unsure whether the man was still on the loose.
Easton wrote that she realized she "risked increasing anxiety and concern" of students by e-mailing them about the incident. But, by waiting so long, the university increased my anxiety and concern a great deal more than if I had been informed immediately after the incident occurred. Keeping students in the dark only allowed more rumors, uncertainty and panic to spread. The university should have addressed this issue head-on as soon as possible.
Easton wrote in her e-mail that we all have a responsibility to be mindful of our safety and the safety of those around us - a statement which is absolutely true. But the university also has a responsibility to let the students know when something like this happens so we know to be even more vigilant.
After the Virginia Tech shootings, Geneseo and other universities realized the importance of alerting students of emergencies immediately. According to Geneseo's Environmental Health and Safety Web site, the "best way we can help ensure campus safety is through fast, effective notification." Apparently, the administration decided that a potentially dangerous man peeping on women in bathrooms was not important enough to warrant immediate student notification. In doing so, it put students, faculty and staff at even greater risk.
I can only hope that in the future, the university is more responsible and prompt in alerting students of a potential threat to their security.