Letter: A vague safety alert left us in the dark

Photo by Justin Jeffery

I am writing to urge the president and provost of Kent State University to provide a public explanation of their decision-making concerning the social media threat on March 7, 2022, as well as a public apology to the Kent State community for their severe mishandling of the situation.

At 2:47 p.m., faculty received text alerts that stated: “A social media post has not been substantiated. We have increased police presence. If you have knowledge contact KSU police.” No other information about the content of the post or the reason for the increased police presence was provided. All we were left to assume was that some threat of some nature had been made against the KSU community and that it required an increased police presence on campus, but somehow did not require the cancellation of classes or the sharing of more details with the KSU community.

This meant that faculty members were left to learn about the details of the threat from their students while in class. The threat involved a photograph on social media of a gun with the text “Kent State at 3.” The university never communicated with faculty as to how to handle our classes or how to deal with the feelings of our students. Instead, faculty were left wondering whether they should hold or cancel classes, while attempting to support crying and traumatized students, not to mention dealing with their own anxiety and fear about a potential active shooter situation that was only ever referred to as a “social media post” in alerts from the university.

The fact that KSU administration could let this situation transpire in this matter, in a day and age when college students cannot remember a time when mass shootings were not a clear and present danger to their lives, is abhorrent and raises serious questions about the ability of the administration to fulfill its duties to its campus community.

The university’s response would be laughable if the nature of the situation were not deadly serious. After Monday’s events, I have zero confidence in the university’s ability to handle such a crisis, and if my confidence could be in the negative, it would. I am appalled by the lack of care, concern and communication expressed by the university in their handling of this situation. The administration let us down in a situation where the lives of my students, my friends and my colleagues could have been at stake. If there is any silver lining in a situation like this, it’s the fact that I (like many other KSU employees) have been asked to complete several surveys about what it’s like to work at KSU. I suspect we will have a lot to say after this.

Christopher Dum

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