Susquehanna University is Bringing Guns to Campus and We Feel Silenced, Not Safe

Normally my content is on the lighter side, but I will not allow myself to stay silent about the way students feel about the decision to arm Public Safety Officers at Susquehanna University. It's been argued that some students feel safer on this campus with this change in the works, my response to this is which students? Minorities on this campus have suffered hate crimes beyond measure since my enrollment here and have felt discriminated against by Public Safety in multiple instances. There are students, friends of mine, that have been followed all over campus by Public Safety vehicles because they were seen as suspicious because of the color of their skin. There are professors who feel just as uncomfortable with public safety for this reason. In my own experience, even as an RA, there are times when I've walked out of my room to use the bathroom in the middle of the night and saw a public safety officer roaming the halls. He stopped me and asked if I saw a suspicious student walking around, it was 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning and there was no one in sight. 

The announcement that Public Safety officers would be armed was released on December 3rd just as finals were beginning, see the screenshots below for the message: 


When this announcement was made to faculty members, after the email was sent out to students, someone stood up and asked the following question, "What happens if a student of color is shot in the back of the head?" The room fell silent. This question is not to be taken lightly, nor is the fact that this decision was made without input from the student body.  

On December 6th at 12:00 PM students and faculty members gathered at Weber Chapel in all black and marched in protest. They marched to Pine Lawn (President Green's House), to the Public Safety office, and then back to the Chapel. I was not a part of this protest, but that doesn't mean that I agree with the arming of Public Safety officers. 

Since this decision has been made, I've heard all sorts of things through the grapevine. Multiple peers of mine have stated that Public Safety was previously allowed to shoot students with rubber bullets and last week it came out that our University hires these "trained professionals" via Craigslist. I don't know if these statements are accurate, but I felt highly unsettled when I heard them. There is also a strong belief that this decision was made based on regaining financial backing from the conservative alumni that felt alienated when we changed our mascot representative from Crusaders to River Hawks in 2016. A friend of mine and her roommate disclosed this theory to me and when I pondered it I discovered to my own lack of surprise, money always seems to come first in situations such as these.  

In response to the decision to arm Public Safety, it was said the decision was in the making for about a year and was finally made in response to how students reacted to having Ben Shapiro on campus. The retort to this is that students wanted was to protest peacefully against a man who endorses sexism, racism, and who has other highly radical opinions about the way certain people should be treated. Instead, the students were silenced and Shapiro's safety was the main priority. This is in addition to the alleged robbery that took place within West Village, an area of on-campus housing, last year where there was a gun said to be involved. I lived in this area when this incident happened and it turned out to be far less serious than speculated. My question is simply this, if we arm public safety how will it prevent gun violence on our campus? How will students feel safe going out and walking home alone in the dark at night?    

The students are the ones who live on this campus and pay a hefty price to do so. Minorities on this campus have been ignored long enough and their lives have been invalidated as a result. No more, they matter. Their voices matter and they deserve to be heard. The answer to protecting students starts with listening to what they have to say. I'll leave you all with this humorously satirical Facebook post from a student in response to the upcoming change on campus.