This week at Trinity College has been the most inspiring I’ve seen in all of my four years here. The shocking and senseless attack against Trinity student Chris Kenny this past Saturday has inspired an active movement uncharacteristic of the Trinity student body’s “apathetic” nature—a description given to us by others. Disgusted with the disregard for the severity of Saturday’s situation, many members of the community have come forward demanding change. This first wave came in a bout of powerful emails sent by Chris’s comrades shaming campus safety for the glazed-over report of Saturday’s incident and relaying the grim truth to the college community.
It wasn’t until Tuesday that President Jones e-mailed the student body about the incident. For many, this gesture proved to be too little too late. The administration called forth an “open forum” to be scheduled that Thursday so students could discuss their thoughts and concerns with the administration. We all know how that turned out from the social policy forum that took place at the beginning of the semester, and many students felt that like the rash email sent out on Chris’s behalf, a faculty-run forum would not be sufficient. Kenny’s fraternity brothers decided to take matters into their own hands by organizing a rally to take place at the same time as the scheduled forum as an alternative environment for students to discuss safety issues on campus.
The “mission statement” of the rally reads as follows:
“The mission of this rally is two-fold. It is first a showing of support for Chris Kenny and his family, whose recovery is in all our prayers. It is second a student-run forum that seeks to give a voice to the student body in improving our safety and security. The rally has no initiative other than to provide students with the ability to make their concerns and ideas known. The views that will be expressed by the individuals in the forum are personal, and should not be taken as the views of the entire student body. Please come show your support for Chris and his family, and share your ideas that will help us to build a campus in which people feel safe. The rally will be held during common hour, starting at 12:00 on the main quad in front of the statue.”
-Benjamin Green ’14 and Matthew Tesone ’13
The first part of the rally’s “mission” is a beautiful gesture to the victim and his family to reassure them that the powerful support from the Trinity College community extends far beyond emails and hospital visits. The second part of the rally’s “mission” is a charged motion towards the administration from the student body asserting that it will not let yet another infringement on student’s safety go unnoticed.
When the administration got word of the rally, they quickly tried to gain the upper hand in the situation. President Jones cancelled the forum stating “We need to hear all opinions and we do not want to put anyone in the predicament of having to choose.” The “Rally for Kenny” quickly went from a student protest to an event mentioned by the daily college news email “Trinity Today” in between information about study abroad fairs and Relay for Life Information sessions.
However, the Trinity student body remained strong in their convictions, and held a successful student-run rally that united students and faculty (most notably Paul E. Raether) in an honest discussion of the truth. Free shirts and bracelets with the tagline “Fight for What’s Right Trinity College” were handed out at the rally, and soon the unorganized mob become a united crowd all dressed in blue. Student’s sported signs with the messages reading “We Love You Kenny” and “3/4/12: Not Just Another Email.” Among the myriad of speakers, all of the students eloquently expressed their concerns, their hope to gather the community around this cause, and their regret that it took this horrific event to spark such discussion.
Most notably, many students who did not even know Chris stood up to speak about their reactions to the event, re-emphasizing the open nature of the rally. The gathering also inspired students who had been attacked in the past to come forward and share their stories and remaining concerns. A rattled but passionate sophomore, Maria Young, bravely took the podium as the most recent student to be accosted on campus before Chris. She shared that she was robbed at 6:30 P.M. on the Upper-Long Walk, a seemingly safe time and place. She expressed her overwhelming fear to walk on campus in the wake of her experience, her disappointment with campus safety’s minimal reaction, her disgust that although her parents were assured she could always call for a ride, campus safety is not available for her when she calls, and finally the hurt she experienced when the Hartford Courant published a story about her incident in which they switched her sex and asserted that it was not confirmed that she was a Trinity student.
Besides revealing and emotional testimonies, other students offered their insights about why Trinity’s safety issues exist. Senior Alberto Martinez impressively delivered a slew of statistics from memory surrounding the debate about campus safety at Trinity. He asserted that contrary to previous discussions, the issue of student on student crime is completely irrelevant in a case like Chris Kenny's, even though many people have tried to link the two problems together in the past. He also squashed the race and ethnicity tensions that have been perilously teetering on the outskirts of this conversation by asserting that the student body is solely concerned with their personal safety, not their attacker’s race. Martinez expressed his strong regret that the monumental issue of student’s safety on campus is being “hijacked” by other unrelated issues as a façade to ignore the real problem. Sophomore Arthur Chou delivered a rousing speech in which he broached the controversial topic of isolating Trinity from the Hartford community, part of which can be seen here.
As President Jones’ Irish Setter candidly barked at the mention of his owner's inappropriate and insufficient response to Chris Kenny’s attack, students and faculty alike were able to engage in an emotionally charged, but rational and even-keeled forum ‘neath our dear old elms, which will hopefully begin to incite the necessary change the Trinity College community needs.