Staff Editorial: A campus safety failure

There was a murder threat directed toward members of the community Tuesday, but you likely didn’t know that until now.

And that’s an alarming problem.

The University’s failure to inform and protect its students is a dangerous breakdown of communication and safety.

According to Metropolitan Police Department documents, the Medical Faculty Associates received a threat at 10 a.m. Tuesday that someone had threatened to bring an AK-47 to the Medical Center and kill “some doctors and patients.”

As soon as University Police Chief Kevin Hay was notified of the threat, the University should have sent out a warning to the community.

But it did not. And as of publication, it still hasn’t. The only University-wide communication sent out was a GW Infomail discrediting The Hatchet’s report that a threat existed.

But a threat did exist. Someone was threatening to bring an AK-47 on campus and kill doctors and patients. How the University can justify framing that warning as “non-specific” is incomprehensible.

There is no reason that the delay between receiving the threat and notifying the community was so great. Threats against any facet of GW should not be taken lightly, and efforts to secure campus and inform community members of a potential threat should have occurred immediately after UPD received the call.

The Hatchet received a tip that a weapon threat had been issued against members of the community, and at 12:36 p.m., a reporter approached UPD for confirmation and further information. The reporter was referred to MPD, where a public information officer confirmed a threat at 1:07 p.m. During this time, the University remained silent. University spokespeople repeatedly declined to comment on the extent of the threat, what the community should do to protect itself and what UPD was doing to secure campus.

The University’s refusal to speak and its deferral to MPD is appalling and inexcusable. While MPD is responsible for leading investigations, that does not absolve the University from its responsibility to protect and inform the community. Campus safety was in question.

It is understandable that GW did not want spark panic in the community, but when specifically asked about it, the University’s silence was far from reassuring. Declining to comment does not make people feel safe. It leads the community to fear the worst.

The Clery Act, enforced by the Department of Education, states that institutions must “immediately notify the campus community upon the confirmation of a significant emergency or dangerous situation involving an immediate threat to the health or safety of students or employees occurring on the campus.”

The University failed to take initiative on alerting the community, despite a murder threat that was made against employees and patients. The University, in its sustained silence, defied the instructions of a federal act established in order to protect students against harm in situations just like this one.

This isn’t just a breakdown of communication or a missed opportunity. The University failed to adequately secure and alert the community against threat of murder.

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