The Flames of the Torch: The Advisory That Cried Wolf

On Nov. 14, the department of Public Safety issued yet another advisory to the student body about yet another incident that took place in the St. John’s community.

Three assailants jumped a student walking alone across the Great Lawn, and a physical altercation took
place that left the victim on the ground while his attackers ran to Gate 7. The suspects were each described as black males, with the first about 6-foot-1 and wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and black pants and the other two approximately six feet tall.

Everybody with a St. John’s email account was notified about the incident, the fourth notification that Public Safety has sent out this year. And all four times, the advisory has been met with a collective shrug, or worse.

Few people in the St. John’s community take these advisories as seriously as they should. It’s not hard to see why. Most of the advisories describe the same suspect each time: African American or Hispanic male between 5-foot-6 and 6-foot-4 wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and baseball cap, and often black pants as well.

The advisories border on self-parody. The first advisory of the fall semester encapsulates how truly ridiculous they are. It read, in part, “Suspect #1 slapped the victim on his right cheek with his hand and removed the victim’s iPhone 4… The victim suffered redness to his right cheek and refused medical aid.”

Who can read that and do anything but laugh? What student or faculty member would ever take anything like that seriously?

These advisories have become so ludicrous that we aren’t even sure how to react upon receiving them. Should we be more aware of our
surroundings? Should we be afraid of what could be out there in the darkness?

On occasion, there is the email that sticks out, the one that makes us sweat. It may say something about waiving “a silver handgun” or the ultimate movie threat, “Be still or I’ll shoot you.” Suddenly, girls start lining up escorts for their walk home.

But just as freshmen start questioning their decision to come to school in Jamaica — which is, after all, where 50 Cent got shot, the bing of a new message on our smartphone sounds, and once again all is right in our world.

It wasn’t true, there was no gun – just a kid who fell asleep and exaggerated a story to explain the loss of his backpack.

The problem with this false sense of security that the recanted police report brought back to the St. John’s community is that it takes away
from our sense of the real world. The next advisory received won’t be taken seriously; it won’t shock and warn the way it is intended.

The next advisory of a female student being harassed while walking down a street will be taken with the weight of the last, rather
than its own worth. One person’s exaggeration, or lie, can and will affect our opinion of all other future incidents.

Too quickly do we judge that the girl must have been drunk as she walked home, or that the guy who got his “lacerations” picked the fight with the wrong person and simply lost.

Public Safety is right to keep us informed of what is going on.

But it must take its own advisories more seriously and be judicious as to what incidents require our attention.

One suggestion: we don’t need to be informed of redness of the right cheek when someone gets slapped.