‘Situation’ analysis


4 a.m. Police take fire while responding to a report of a suspicious man in the suburbs surrounding Villanova. Back-up is called and a perimeter is established. Police place South Campus on lock-down and hunt for the suspect.

4:39 a.m. Villanovan editors making final corrections to this issue of the newspaper are informed of a shooting incident on South Campus. As a safety precaution, they inform Public Safety that students are still working in Dougherty 201.

6:30 a.m. The first news stories trickle in from local network stations. Sketchy reports include words such as “shots fired,” “armed and very dangerous” and “at large.”

7:30 a.m. An hour before classes begin for the day, students on South Campus awake to helicopters circling overhead and S.W.A.T. teams patrolling on and around campus. KYW1060.com reports that the suspect who fired 10 shots at police officers near the intersection of Browning Lane and Meadowood Road in Radnor is a 5-foot-11 African American male.

8 a.m. Half an hour before classes begin, no word from the University. We know that Radnor area middle and elementary schools plan a delayed opening. We know that Agnes Irwin school will also open late. However, although one-quarter of the Villanova student population is barred from leaving their residence halls because of an “active shooter,” the University says nothing to students or to the general public.

8:30 a.m. NBC.com reports that Villanova will have a 10:30 a.m. delayed opening.

9:04 a.m. Villanova states on its Web site, “Due to police activity, classes will resume beginning with 10:30 a.m. classes.”

9:35 a.m. Students receive an e-mail from Dean of Students Paul Pugh saying that Radnor police are investigating an incident that recently occurred “off campus, but near the South Campus.” As a result, the University will open at 10:30 a.m.

10:20 a.m. Villanova posts a news update on the University Web site about the “situation,” which provides a phone number for concerned parents and students. Classes will resume at 11:30 a.m.

When snow causes a delayed opening or cancellation of classes, students are informed at least an hour before classes are scheduled to begin.

When an armed gunman fires multiple shots at Radnor police officers on a street behind University property, students are left to glean their information from vague news reports on local stations and by word-of-mouth. Even with coverage in the mainstream local media, many students on South Campus remained unaware of the situation until they awoke to find an armada of police cars lining Ithan Avenue.

We realize the potential exists for false rumors and exaggerated information to spread among the student population, and we recognize the importance of getting all of the facts straight before reporting. However, when a serious situation occurs, particularly a situation that puts students at risk, the University should be more concerned about maintaining the students’ faith in the University than about protecting students and parents from a frightening reality. We understand the desire to avoid a panic, but in this situation, knowledge is power.

Students who live on West Campus, Main Campus or in off-campus residences were not informed of the developments on South Campus. We think these students had the right to decide whether or not to attend classes for the day while an armed gunman was on the loose.

This incident marked the first time that many of us felt unsafe at Villanova, and this fear was fueled by a lack of information.

In this situation, it was reasonable and downright necessary for the University to make contact with us before classes began, or at least before the mainstream media had informed the public that Villanova would have a delayed opening.

For their own safety, students need to know the specifics about this “police activity,” as it was called. At the very least, the e-mail should have included a hyperlink to a story describing the “incident” in greater detail. And please call it what it is. There is no reason to sugarcoat a shooting.

Furthermore, we find it unsettling that the four students who were stuck in Dougherty at 4 a.m. and called Public Safety never received follow-up to ensure that they were still safe.

We are young adults, and as such should be afforded a certain amount of autonomy. We also need to know that those entrusted with our well-being are actively involved and well-informed when bad things happen.

We shouldn’t have to rely on CBS to tell us what is going on in our backyard.