Every speaker at yesterday’s emotionally-driven rally began by expressing support for Chris Kenny, but then each commented on safety, with the overwhelming message from those allowed to speak being “we must fight for our safety.”
Students whose perspectives did not align with the push for one interpretation of safety were not permitted to stand behind the lectern, said one member of the Trinity community, who was told that only those on a list would be allowed to speak. When one Trinity student who is also a Hartford resident asked to speak out, he was told to “shut the fuck up.”
Other students have described the current climate as hostile, saying they feel “marginalized” on account of their identities. An outspoken student at the college said she felt worried about backlash from fellow students. There has also been concern that staff, such as cleaners and those in food service, are being alienated by the increasingly vocal push to physically separate the college from the city in which it resides.
During the rally, only one speaker, Maria Young, described firsthand experience with being assaulted on campus. Uninjured, but shaken and scared, she described being let down by everyone, including her family. When her attack received coverage by the news media, they mangled the description of the incident, referring to her as a male, and misreporting other details. In her speech, she opined that “the administration is more concerned with the image of the college.”
But others are clearly concerned with Trinity’s image, including an early speaker at the rally who gave a fiery speech in which he expressed concern that Trinity would be ridiculed as the “Harlequin of Hartford,” a remark that puzzled other students in attendance.
It seemed only one Hartford resident was given the opportunity to show support for Kenny, and this individual used the forum to critique City officials and promote his campaign for political office.
Alberto Rodriguez, senior, referenced local forums and commentators pointing out that most of the crime on Trinity campus is committed by students. He conceded, “that might be true” but dismissed the consideration of student-committed crime as “entirely irrelevant” and “absolutely illogical.” Rodriguez claimed that “the only important thing” is that “our personal safety is being put in jeopardy.”
Continuing to politicize the recent assault, another student spoke in favor of “abandoning open campus” in favor of a “secured, not closed” gated campus, where area residents with ID could apply for a “Trinity pass” to make use of on-campus facilities.
This detailed plan has been circulating as a petition:
A Petition to Secure the Trinity College
By Trey Zenker
Trinity is a college comprised of exceptional students, outstanding facilities, and a dedicated faculty. Moreover, Trinity is a college that prides itself on a commitment to foster a positive relationship with the local Hartford community, a community of people largely less fortunate than the average Trinity student. Annually, the Office of Community Service and Civic Engagement as well as other organizations work tirelessly to give back to the community through food drives, volunteer work, and events such as the Fun Fair held at the end of spring semester. The Raether Library is available to any member of the community with a valid government issued identification document and the campus remains open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Despite this genuine effort to establish a positive relationship with the local community crime is still quite prevalent.
Understandably, in a city such as Hartford where, as of 2009, the violent crime rate was an astounding 200.9% higher than the national violent crime rate and 332.66% higher than the violent crime rate of the state of Connecticut, the danger of criminal activity is to be expected. However, in their December 1st email to the school body, President Jones and Dean Alford writing to allay the concerns raised by two security incidents characterized the increase in criminal activity during the 2011-2012 academic year as seemingly inexplicable. Then in a subsequent email of January 25th, 2012, President Jones outlined new efforts to achieve effective and lasting changes that would improve campus safety. Specifically, we were informed that five additional campus safety officers had been added to the staff to be on patrol from 8pm until 4am.
Unfortunately, despite additional lighting and an increase in the number of campus safety officers, the incident concerning the brutal and senseless assault of a student on Sunday, March 4th, 2012 by members of the local community is a clear indication that campus safety must be seriously re-evaluated. Though President Jones’s March 6, 2012 email outlines extensive and commendable measures to better the safety of this institution, I am not convinced that hiring more security officers or consulting outside firms are concrete or lasting solutions to the security nightmare.
Simply put, I propose that Trinity College abandon the overly idealistic open campus policy for what I would call a “secured” campus policy that I believe would not only greatly decrease the amount of crime on campus, but prove to be more cost-effective than increasing the number of security guards over time. With the exception of the Stowe and Anadama residence halls, a gate would be erected surrounding the entirety of campus with a number (to be negotiated) of entrances that after the hour of 6pm would be staffed by campus safety officers in booths. From this point until 6am the next morning, only students, faculty, or staff with an official Trinity College ID would be granted admission to the college. From 6am to 6pm, the campus would remain completely open. Again, I stress that the campus would be “secured,” not “closed.” Any non-Trinity affiliated individual with a valid government issued identification document would be able to register for a “Trinity Pass” which would grant the visitor access to Trinity College at any time. The “Trinity Pass” would be a computerized system (negotiable) that one would have to swipe at one of the campus safety booths upon entering and exiting campus between the hours of 6pm and 6am. If a guest were to visit campus, all that would be required is that the guest provide his information as displayed on a valid government issued identification document to a campus safety officer who would proceed to take the information down and enter it into a system. However, the “Trinity Pass” is but one possible solution to keeping track of who is on campus and I would certainly be open to other similar ideas. Because Stowe and Anadama could not be fenced off, I propose that a campus safety officer be posted outside the two dorms 24 hours a day. Furthermore, the gate would not only prevent the unregulated entry onto campus, but also serve as a constant reminder for Trinity Students of the dangers of venturing off campus at night.
There are those who will argue that a gate will send the wrong message to the local community, that it will strain our complex relationship even more. To that I say this: I believe the intelligence
and competence of the average Hartford resident is great enough to understand that a college needs to be able to keep track of who comes and goes so as to protect its enrolled students. It is not the demand for a gate based on the student body’s well-founded fears of continued aggression and criminal activity by a select portion of the community that is insulting to the general local population, but instead the true degradation of the local community lies in the notion that any reasonable member of the local population would be unable to understand why my proposed security measure has become a necessity for this generous and reasonable institution. To require that people sign into campus after certain times would not be creating a beacon of privilege in a desolate land, in fact, it would be no different than what is currently asked of locals who hope to use the Raether Library. Information sessions for the local population as to why this choice was made would be integral to continuing to attempt to foster a positive relationship with the community around us.
To conclude, I sincerely hope Trinity College is ready to re-evaluate this idealistic mindset in favor of my rational course of action, which will provide effective protection for the student body for which Trinity is both a school and a home.
The description of suspects released by the Hartford Police Department was mentioned neither in this petition nor at the rally. The HPD describes the suspects as: ” suspects are described as three White females and two White males in their 20’s. They were last seen fleeing in a Black, possible new, two door coupe traveling south on Summit Street.” They do not indicate whether the suspects are students, city residents, or people from out of town who had been passing through. Nothing has been said how these proposed security measures would impact student-on-student crime that occurs beyond the college boundaries, other than the possibility that students would be reminded of the “dangers of venturing off campus at night.”
Besides failing to describe suspects at the rally, there was no call for the perpetrators of the recent assault to be found and brought to justice.
Around the periphery of the rally stood more stoic observers, whose faces expressed disbelief at some of the statements made demanding student safety.
When asked about what this “fight for safety” would involve, students indicated that this would mean pressuring the Trustees and others in administration. There was no mention of students taking direct action such as learning conflict resolution skills. At other colleges, student organizations, especially those aimed at stopped sexual violence, patrol campus at night on weekends and during major events like spring break. There was no indication that students at Trinity would be starting or stepping up any such patrols.
The head of student government referenced the upcoming board of trustees meeting and a student government meeting happening Friday. Paul E. Raether — class of 1968 and one of the Trustees for 2011-2012 — described the assault on Kenny as “tragic and completely unacceptable” and took a more measured tone, reassuring students that “we are listening [...] we get it [...] we are open to suggestions.”
The rally ended with its organizer taking the microphone, saying a few words, and then screaming “Safety” before inviting his fellow students to march around campus with him doing the same. A faction of his fellow students drifted toward the north end of the Quad in the direction of his shouts. The remaining crowd stood around chatting for a few minutes and slowly dispersed as barbecue smoke drifted away against a bright springlike sky.
Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford.
To view other stories on this topic, search RealHartford at http://www.realhartford.org/.