Staff Editorial: Safety in Transparency

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Staff Editorial: Safety in Transparency

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Fordham’s Rose Hill and Lincoln Center campuses are boroughs apart, but they are both served by Fordham’s Department of Public Safety, which acts to protect the Fordham community and inform them about important events both on- and off-campus. However, its emails to students about certain incidents leave us with more questions than answers.

Public Safety often issues alerts regarding problems within the immediate area outside of Rose Hill, but rarely issues alerts about incidents outside of Lincoln Center.

Oct. 29 saw the first Lincoln Center campus-specific public safety alert since Jan. 30, 2018. In the same time period, between two Public Safety email addresses, 17 Rose Hill and two Bronx public safety alerts were emailed to the Fordham community.

It is unclear what makes an incident in the Lincoln Center area worth reporting in comparison to its Rose Hill counterpart, especially when these alerts reach the entire student body. Lately, high-profile incidents on and around campus have brought this disparity into the spotlight — when gunshots were reported across the street from McKeon Hall on Sept. 21, Public Safety remained silent.

It would be naïve to say that no crimes happen in midtown Manhattan, but in the past two years, the majority of Lincoln Center-related emails have concerned maintenance and the weather.

When it comes to keeping students prepared and aware, Lincoln Center students seem to have less support. As such, students have increasingly turned to community reporting apps like Citizen and Wildfire to fill that gap and stay aware of the events happening right outside their windows. Public Safety has assured the community that it should instead rely on its own emails regarding “matters of importance, crimes or emergencies” that affect it.

If Public Safety has reasons for their relative reticence, they are not clear to the wider Fordham Lincoln Center community. The Clery Act requires that a public safety alert be sent if the Associate Vice President of Public Safety determines that a report indicates an ongoing threat to members of the university community. The criteria for this decision are unknown.

Why was the last incident that we got an email about special? Why pick any particular report over similar incidents that occurred on different days? Why report so few of the incidents that occur in or around Lincoln Center?

Admittedly, there are fewer reports filed in the Lincoln Center area — as of the time of publication, there have been 26 listed incidents at Lincoln Center this semester to Rose Hill’s 59 — but Lincoln Center has half the population of Rose Hill.

It’s hard to discount the legacy of stigma towards the borough that Fordham calls home. The Bronx is still seen as dangerous and alien, something to be kept out by the high fences and guarded gates at Rose Hill, while Manhattan is regarded as much more tame — tame enough to open the plaza to the public.

Unlike Rose Hill, we are not a walled fortress, and we have no gates to hide behind. Each time we step outside, we are immersed in a city that is by no means perfectly safe. It is imperative that we be able to rely on our university to protect and inform us, and thankfully, with a 24/7 hotline, a dedicated app and a close relationship with the NYPD, it is more than capable of responding to situations to keep us safe.

This is an issue that directly affects the safety of the students who attend Lincoln Center. We are told to embrace the city and venture into it boldly, but we lack the tools to safely do so.

Public Safety owes it to Lincoln Center to honestly and openly report on crimes happening in Columbus Circle and the surrounding blocks, lest we put students at unnecessary risk because of easily accessible information. After all, New York is our campus. We are part of the city, and as such must stay aware of what goes on in its streets. It should be the duty of Public Safety to aid this goal — or, at least, make it clear why it usually does not.