The threat of October 5th is a daily reality for many people

Alissa Welker

At prime lunch time on any normal beautiful fall Monday the Café Nova tables would have been swarming with students, and people would have been milling about by the Oreo. However, as I walked through campus on Monday afternoon, Oct. 5, the campus was, for all intents and purposes, deserted. The usual hustle and bustle was absent. 

Midafternoon on Oct. 4, Villanova students received an email from David Tedjeske with the subject line: “Safety Advisory: Unspecified Threat to Philadelphia Area Colleges and Universities.” In this email, students were informed that “Federal authorities [had] notified colleges and universities in our region that threats of violence [had] been made against ‘an unspecified university near Philadelphia.’” This email evoked a wide range of reactions from students.  Some read the email and didn’t think much of it—for others, the email evoked a strong sense of fear. Through residence hall gossip and social media communication, rumors spread like wildfire and feelings of fear and anxiety were palpable across campus. 

In this article I do not want to talk about whether anyone overreacted or about the way the university handled the situation. I do want to note that every person had a right to feel whatever emotion the circumstance triggered for them. Each person handles and responds to situations differently. And sadly we do live in a world where threats like the one seen on 4Chan, the anonymous website where the threat was posted, must be taken seriously.

When I decided to go about my normal day on that Monday, albeit a little on the cautious side, there was something very important that struck me as I walked through the deserted campus. I began to contemplate the concept of feeling fear for my safety by simply walking out the door. I would venture to guess that this was a new experience for the majority of Villanova students. On a campus that is predominantly white and upper-middle-class, most of us have never lived in situations where fear is the norm. And in a moment of self-reflection I realized that the fear that we felt on that Monday could give us a small glimpse into the life of what millions of individuals around the world face every day. I can point to any refugee crisis, instance of political strife or even certain communities in the United States and tell you that people in these situations feel fear from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep day in and day out. 

Before I go any further and challenge you to take a moment to reflect on how you felt on that Monday, I want to emphasize two important points. First, I recognize that this may not be the first time that some of us students have experienced a situation like this before, but I do venture to guess that the majority of students have never been in a similar situation to the one we faced as a Villanova community on Monday Oct 5. Second, I want to recognize that our experience of fear that we felt on Oct. 5, on many levels cannot be compared to individuals that experience perpetual fear. 

I, by no means, am under the impression that I can say I know what it feels like to live in a war -torn community or live in a state of constant fear, because fear is not the norm in my life. However, I do think that this situation can give Villanova students a bit of insight into the lives of many who live in realities very different from the Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia. If students stop for a second to recognize that our situation of privilege, of not feeling fear by simply walking outside every morning, is not the way everyone lives around the world, our experience from Monday Oct. 5 has the opportunity to teach us all an important lesson. Upon reflection, it is a chance for us to stand in solidarity, at least in spirit, with those around the world. 

It is an uncomfortable and scary situation when you feel fear simply walking on campus. And unfortunately that was the feeling for many students as they skirted around the main areas of campus or decided not to go to classes on that Monday. But remember that some people have to live in constant fear. Many individuals in these situations do not have the choice of whether they are going to continue with their daily activities or not. I believe a constant state of fear should not have to be the reality for any human being, and I call us to reflect on our experiences and hope that we can connect on a little bit deeper level with what millions go through every day. 

I know that it is so easy to get caught up in our own bubble and only think about our current, generally safe situation of our daily lives, but I challenge us, as a Villanova community, to do our part to put a positive spin on the situation.  Take some of the feelings that many of us, for the first time felt, on Oct 5th and use it as a learning experience. Whether this means that we will take a few moments to learn more about the Syrian Refuge Crisis, the wars going on around the world or other human rights atrocities, just take a moment to ask ourselves:  What can we do to make a difference?  Think about it, develop a plan, and act on it. Create at least a bit of good out of this situation.