Semblances of safety at SLU


Late Sunday night, April 26, a young woman was lacerated on the neck by a man with a knife, outside of Starbucks, on Grand Boulevard. Bleeding, she ran into the Starbucks, where the doors were barred, preventing her male assailant from continuing the attack. Eventually, the attacker was subdued and arrested by St. Louis Police Department (SLMPD) officers.

For many of us, this is old news, but perhaps the details were a little different the first time we heard about the attack. Students using Yik Yak, GroupMe and Facebook detailed their observations, or what they had heard, for the world to read. Rumors quickly surfaced that someone had died and that there was blood everywhere. For some, these rumors may have shaken their own sense of safety on this campus.

It concerns us that SLU’s Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (DPS) has done nothing to squash rumors, alleviate fears or even provide us some level of information regarding the stabbing. We have been told that the reason that DPS has been silent is due to the SLMPD’s insistence that it finishes its investigation before it can be reported by DPS.

However, we find this explanation problematic for a number of reasons. First, just because we cannot be given specific information regarding the attack, does not mean that DPS should not be allowed to report basics: when, where and what happened, even if no names can be included. SLU students should not have to wait until local news covers an attack to see if someone died or not.

Perhaps DPS should negotiate with SLMPD to be able to report information to the SLU community without jeopardizing the city’s investigation.

Second, the DPS reports on many incidents that are often ridiculous and even funny, rather than truly important events. One editor incredulously asked, “DPS has more time to talk about unsubstantiated claims of a “confirmed odor” than a stabbing?”

While discussing this specific investigation, we began thinking about safety at SLU more generally. One editor argued that certain events could cause our sense of security to be shaken. These events include university shootings, changes in security protocol and other violent events on or near our campus. However, the idea that we are all safe on campus at all times is somewhat of a façade anyway. There are no metal detectors to get into buildings, and most young looking people in backpacks can move around without provoking concern on this campus. In some ways, we have created a sense of false security for ourselves.

A sense of security is important. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs requires people to have certain needs satisfied before they can do other things, such as read or think about philosophy.

While events like this shake our sense of security, we, too, want to be aware of events happening around our campus. DPS moving its incident reports to a Google Doc, rather than reporting each incident individually, could give many of us an even greater false sense of security. While some of us may still not change our behavior if we hear the specifics of an incident report, we need semblances of both safety and awareness on our campus.