On May 1, students at Colgate University, a private liberal arts college in Hamilton, New York, were forced to take shelter over an alleged weapon on campus.
Tensions mounted at the university, which is made up of 2,900 undergraduates, as campus lockdown took place based on a report a person had "entered the O’Connor Campus Center while carrying what witnesses believed was a weapon," according to a statement from university spokesperson Daniel DeVries.
Police investigated facilities during the lockdown, which lasted four hours and didn't end until just before midnight. Word spread there were two gunmen on campus, and one had committed suicide. These speculations turned out to be false.
A student told HuffPost those in their dorms were ordered to keep their lights off. The university posted a series of tweets regarding the shutdown:
Law enforcement is on campus for reports of an alleged armed person in the Coop. They are searching the building.— Colgate University (@colgateuniv) May 2, 2017
Campus safety officials report there have been no shots fired. Situation is still under investigation. Updates as available.— Colgate University (@colgateuniv) May 2, 2017
New York State Police have issued the all-clear. Officers remain in the Coop finishing their investigation.— Colgate University (@colgateuniv) May 2, 2017
Colgate University issued a statement on the matter just after it was resolved, at 12:13 a.m. on May 2:
"An emergency situation involving reports of an individual allegedly carrying a gun has been resolved after a campus-wide search. At approximately 8:00 p.m. this evening (May 1), an individual entered the O’Connor Campus Center while carrying what witnesses believed was a weapon. Campus Safety initiated a campus lockdown in response to these reports. After thorough investigation, and with the assistance of the person in question, law enforcement identified the individual as a student who was using a glue gun for an art project, confirmed the misunderstanding, and released the campus from lockdown. We understand that this has been a very upsetting evening on many levels. Students who wish to gather at the chapel to be together can do so tonight at 12:30 a.m."
Today, Colgate University President Brian W. Casey issued a statement, too, in which he reflected upon the ways racial profiling played a part in the calamity, and subsequent administrative action.
"To more fully understand the events of last night, we are in contact with the student who had the glue gun and will be with the student who made the initial report. Importantly, I am also in contact with those who were making the essential administrative decisions last night.
It is important that we understand the role that implicit racial bias had in the initial reporting of and responses to the events of last night. I want to make sure we speak with those who made and received the initial report to understand the role this played.
More egregiously, perhaps, was the effect profiling had on the response of safety officers and other University offices to these events. In addition, communication and enforcement steps were taken that, I believe, confused and harmed this campus and our students. As a first step, I have asked Campus Safety Director Bill Ferguson, who was leading university security efforts last night, to take an administrative leave from his position effective immediately while we conduct a review of the events of last night.
This has been a difficult, painful several hours on this campus. My obligation is, first, to demand a full accounting of what happened. My next obligation is to take steps to ensure the safety of all Colgate students, faculty and staff. My final obligation—my desire—is to improve Colgate. If there is anything that can and should come from these events it must be that concrete steps are taken to make Colgate a better place, and a university worthy of both regard and respect."
As one Twitter user points out, the incident is sadly reflective of systemic racism, which seems particularly prevalent (or perhaps just more identifiable) in the current political climate.
The times we live in: Colgate University locked down Monday because of armed person report. Tuesday: It was an art student with a glue gun.— John Pitarresi (@PitarresiSports) May 2, 2017
A black male student at Colgate University racially profiled and mistaken as "active shooter" when in reality was only using a hot glue gun. pic.twitter.com/NDzMfzK9qt— Erik L. (@erikklima) May 2, 2017
Props to the university for recognizing the mistake — and, perhaps most significantly, realizing the implications of the error, plus its detrimental effects on minorities and resulting harmful portrayals by non-minorities.
Let's hope, then, it doesn't happen again.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Flickr user _bekahhogue