Our Right to Know
By Steven Appel
Queens College -- The Knight News
This issue, The Knight News broke a story on two violent muggings on campus that have been kept silent - one for months. In both incidents, three men waited in the same Kiely Hall first floor men's bathroom, choked their victims (college staff) till they were unconscious, and then proceeded to strip them of their valuables. In the second instance, the male victim was 63 years old. The first incident took place on January 14 at 12:25 p.m. and the second mugging took place on April 17 at 12:50 p.m. The fact the college kept these attacks silent is at best reprehensible and, at worst, criminally negligent.
The law dictates that students have a right to know if a violent incident occurs on campus. In fact, according to directives accessible on the college's Web site (http://qcpages.qc.cuny.edu/Security/Clery.htm): "Timely warning reports are made to the members of the campus community regarding when occurrence of crimes listed in the Clery Act. These warnings are disseminated within 24-48 hours from time of reported crime whenever an incident occurs that presents on ongoing threat to the campus community. These timely warnings are in the form of flyers, phone, mail, posters, safety messages displayed on electronic message boards, etc."
The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act is a federal law that requires colleges and universities to disclose whenever crimes occur on campus that pose an ongoing threat to the college/university community. It is named after Lehigh University freshman Jeanne Ann Clery who was raped and murdered while asleep in her dorm room on April 5, 1986 - an event that occurred after 38 violent crimes on the Lehigh campus went unannounced over a three year period. According to the Clery Act "strong arm" robberies, which include muggings in which hands, fists, etc. are employed to deprive the victim or harm the victim, must be reported to the campus.
Amazingly, there was no notification whatsoever to the campus community - neither the first time, the second time, nor till this very date - that a violent mugging had taken place. The fact the three perpetrators were not caught after the first mugging and have still not been apprehended after the second, represents a clear and ongoing threat to the college community.
In light of the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech and a carjacking that occurred on our own campus a few months ago, the college took positive steps to protect the campus and fine-tuned the alert system that is currently in place. What good is such a system, however, if violent incidents are swept under the rug? How reliable is our campus security if three of the same men (who were not students) can enter our campus and violently mug college staff with impunity on not one, but two separate incidents, and, of all places, in the same bathroom? Is one mugging not enough to alert the campus community, let alone two?
The college has said that it has responded to the latest incidents by posting extra patrols outside the Kiely bathrooms and by placing emergency call stickers on phones around campus. While such measures are welcome they represent an inadequate response to a situation that has now become a pattern. The three muggers who have yet to be apprehended can simply prey on students in other buildings on campus.
What is most disturbing, however, is that the college administration including President Muyskens knew about the first mugging that took place on January 14 and yet decided not to disclose it. We can forgive a lapse in judgment in failing to report the first incident, but why was the second incident not disclosed, after it became apparent that a clear pattern was emerging? This is a serious question that must be addressed accordingly. Had the second victim died as a result of being choked and passing out, the college would be in serious legal trouble.
It is our hope that the college administration comes clean quickly with the campus community and offers a full explanation for what has been going on. We deserve to be informed by the college when our well being is in serious danger - not only because it is the ethical thing to do, but because the law demands it.
Steven M. Appel, a senior majoring in political science and anthropology with minors in Honors in the Social Science and Honors in the Humanities, is currently serving his third year as editor-in-chief of Queens College's newspaper, The Knight News. Elected at the end of his freshman year, Steven has repeatedly led the paper to national recognition. Recently, the paper was named, for the second year in a row, as a finalist for the Associated Collegiate Press Association's Pacemaker Award. The award is recognized as one of the most prestigious in college journalism. Last year, the paper made CUNY history, being the first school to place as a finalist for the award since it was first given out in 1927. Steven hopes to eventually pursue a career in public service.