Trinity Should Talk With Neighbors Before Putting Up Fences
By ARIEL SCHUSTER
March 11, 2012
A Trinity College sophomore was badly beaten and severely injured by a group of unknown assailants as he walked along Allen Place on the school's northern border in the early morning hours a week ago today. Although authorities have yet to determine where the assailants were from, this incident has become the tipping point regarding the growing concern for safety on campus by students and whether to limit access to campus.
Thursday, students held a rally to support Christopher Kenny, the victim of this attack, and to voice concerns regarding the lack of security students feel on campus. Students attended en masse, and there was a notable presence of teachers, administrators and college trustees as well. The student concerns are legitimate. Every student deserves to feel secure in an environment that revolves around education and social life. But this is not the real issue.
The problem lies in the lack of relationships between the campus and the community.
Over the past few months, students and their parents have been receiving emails from Trinity President James F. Jones, as well as the dean of students, proposing increased security initiatives. In one such email, there is reference to requests from the Trinity student government, as well as students and parents, for regulating, "access to campus at certain times of the day" that would "most likely require some additional fencing."
This same letter states that if these initiatives are implemented, the college has "no intention of withdrawing our welcome to the local community to enjoy the benefits we extend to them." The letter notes that the administration has received ideas from security consultants, parents and students, as well as staff, but it says nothing about the voices of Trinity's neighbors.
Wrought iron gates line Broad Street and interrupt space sporadically along Allen Place, New Britain Avenue and Summit Street. Trinity calls itself an open campus, and is for the most part now open to the neighboring communities. As conversations about closing the campus begin to boil, however, access to Trinity will be restricted to students, faculty and staff members. This decision should not be made from one side of the gates. Instead we must have a conversation, and foster a relationship, in order to address this issue of safety and the resounding assumptions that come with it.
As a student at Trinity, I know how closing the campus would affect my life: Going to Campus Pizza will be a longer walk than it has previously been; driving in and out of campus will be a bit more arduous. What I mean to say is that the ways this initiative will affect students is minimal, for there is already an existing (and unwarranted) notion that students should remain on campus.
The ways that closing the campus to outsiders will affect the neighborhood, however, are much greater. Having conducted fieldwork focused on the interactions the neighboring community has with Trinity's gates, I can say with conviction that Trinity College is used a great deal by the Hartford community, whether in pick-up games on the fields, or as a shortcut to get from Zion Street to Broad Street.
If the campus is closed, what else might Trinity be walling out?
While this proposal is still in process — and before decisions have been made — voices other than those of the Trinity community must be heard. In light of the recent attack on campus and the rally in response, now is the perfect time to speak up.
Notions of urban fear and white privilege must not dictate the nature of our relationship. The issue of safety has a great deal to do with a lack of education on the parts of both communities. Assumptions are easily made, and hard to erase.
A public forum should be held to discuss the nature of the Trinity-neighborhood relationship. Without the community's input, decisions will be made from within the gates, directly and unfairly imposing consequences on those outside of the gates.
Ariel Schuster of Southborough, Mass., is a senior majoring in anthropology at Trinity College.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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