Letters to the Editor

To the Editor:

Yesterday could have been a very tragic experience for St. John’s. Luckily, the NYPD and our Public Safety officers did a great job controlling the situation. I was not as happy with the way the University responded. The new text alert system is a great idea, but many students had not yet signed up for it, or were not aware there was a new system in place before yesterday’s events. I was one of the many students held in St. John’s Hall for almost 4 hours. Unfortunately, not one student in my class had signed up for the text alert. We were forced to hear second hand information from our professor who was hearing it from another professor who heard it from even another. We also were moved from room to room by our professor and another. Eventually we were moved from the fourth floor to the third because they felt too far away from the rest of the building. No one was sure what was going on. What I am most upset with is though I had not yet signed up for the new text alert system, I did have the St. John’s emergency alert number saved in my phone. I called it as soon as our professor told us anything and the recording said, “There are no emergencies to report at this time,” our only indication of an emergency was the ever hovering helicopter above campus. I called the emergency number several times before the NYPD entered the building around 6:05 p.m. and we were finally released from St. John’s Hall around 6:30 p.m. The recording did not change until about 5:00 p.m.; 2 1/2 hours after the suspect had been found on campus. Students in my class also tried to log on to St. John’s Central but were unable to because of the high amount of people trying to access the site. There was no information on the log in screen until around 5:00 p.m. as well. I am extremely disappointed that St. John’s was unable to use the emergency alert systems that have been in place for years. The new system is a great program, but considering how new it was, the existing systems should have been appropriately updated. The students in my class and my professor were forced to find out information from local news websites, which were not consistent and put us in greater fear then we needed to be. I thank the NYPD, Public Safety and Christopher Benson for all they did for our school. However, I wish the University had done a better job of notifying all of its students and faculty. The worse part of being lockdown for almost 4 hours was not being informed exactly as to why.

Kara Thomas
St. John’s College
Class of 2009

To the Editor:

A different kind of log, detailing the events of 9.26.07, from a student locked in the Writing Center, with the purpose of debunking reports from the University administration and every major media outlet covering the event.
2:30 p.m. – Gunman apprehended. Freedom prevails.
2:38 p.m. – First text message sent notifying the University community stating that “a male student was apprehended with a rifle on campus. Please stay in your buildings until further notice. He is in custody but please wait until the all clear.”
2:40 p.m. – An accidental second text message is received by many, which includes only the last two words of the first message: “all clear.” Professors, students presume the campus has been cleared for regular operation.
2:43 p.m. – Second (or third, but who’s counting?) text message sent with update.
2:46 p.m. – Students begin pouring into the Writing Center.
3:05 p.m. – Great Lawn covered in FBI and NYPD vehicles. An NYPD helicopter circles overhead. Students are trapped inside buildings with, potentially, a reported second and third gunman.
3:43 p.m. – Wonder if they’ll have class tonight. Looks like we’re going to be here for a while. A message is relayed from whoknowswhere: get comfortable.
4:03 p.m. – A SWAT team enters the church. Students invent and gossip: a second, third gunman at large, a hostage situation in St. John Hall, an apocalyptic explosion destroys the church and blows out the windows facing the Great Lawn. I begin playing chess.
4:06 p.m. – I lose my first game of chess. Conspiracy theories emerge: an invention of the University, for the sake of promoting text messaging system, cell phone company gets big cut as many sign up for notifications. A bit over the top, but fun.
4:16 p.m. – Begin receiving calls from reporters. Phone ringing, no end. Talk to a few people. Give a few details. Return to chess.
4:28 p.m. – Win a game of chess. Decide to return to the windows.
5:00 p.m. – Two reporters arrive. Explain that they made their way from Gate 2 to the library without a problem. Some campus lockdown. Learn the gunman’s name. Students visit his Facebook profile. No one can view.
5:49 p.m. – Rumors of evacuation swirling. Still stuck inside. Talk to a girl that saw the gunman: scared, noticeably shaken.
6:15 p.m. – Finally released. Many students shaken, upset. Others rejoice. Many, including myself, hungry. Consensus: University should be closed tomorrow.
9:03 p.m. – On the way home. See auxiliary lot filled with NYPD cars and trucks, hundreds of officers. Must be searching for gunmen still. Must have the campus on lockdown. Frightening.
10:12 p.m. – Witness a bizarre version of the story on FOX 5, speaking of heroes, text messages, and triumph. “Positive” outcomes rooted in survival. Illustrates an obvious disconnect. Number of times administration (and, in turn, popular opinion) demonstrates little to no understanding of student life at St. John’s: 987,372,382,391.
7:03 a.m. – Log onto St. John’s Central. “Reminder” I read. As if I forgot? School open. 987,372,382,392.
A day filled with reports of second and third gunmen at large is followed by class. A day where students were forced to remain at school for longer than they should have (a majority of them commuters) is followed by a return home to cram for tests and papers due the very next morning. A tip sheet on St. John’s Central reminds me to talk to my RA or RD. 987,372,382,393.

Stephen Pasqualina
Former Editor-in-Chief
Graduate Student
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences