Michaels: How off campus is off campus?

"The stabbing that occurred was in the direct pathway I walk every Tuesday morning for my class in Bozorth Hall. I actually skipped class this past Tuesday in fear of walking through this area, I gave myself a headache stressing over this." - Multimedia Editor / Drew Peltzman

The Whit staff members have written at least five articles about the vague Rowan Alert articles students often receive. This piece is not an opinion about the Rowan Alert system, but rather a discussion of student safety when they reside off campus– as the Rowan Alerts often emphasize. This is an explanation of where my fear comes from. 

It was roughly 11:15 p.m. this past Friday when I walked outside my house to take some pictures in my Halloween costume with my best friend, who had come from Delaware to visit me for the “Halloweekend” that just passed. 

The plan was to go to a concert near my off-campus home, but we took too long to get ready, so we decided to skip it. We continued to get ready anyway, after all, we had to have those pictures. We were dressed as vampires, and what better place to take pictures than my large white house that gives off an eerie vibe at night? 

After taking a few pictures inside, my heels clicked each stair hard as I shuffled my way down to the living room and rushed outside. My house has a large wrap-around porch, so I didn’t see anything when I first stepped outside. As I took a left and headed down my steps, I saw lights of red, white, and blue fill the air past the corner of my street. 

I was curious but didn’t think much of it at first. There have been accidents at the intersection of Oakwood Ave. and Whitney Ave., the streets connecting to my street, University Blvd. Less than a month after I had moved in this past summer a car hit the transformer and blew out our power, my roommate saw the flash from it through her window. 

My first thought was a car accident. It’s Halloween weekend, so many students and people clad in costumes were walking the streets that night– maybe a car swerved to avoid someone. Or maybe someone was drunk driving, it was nearing midnight right by a college campus, and drunk driving is not unheard of on nights like those. 

My friend and I glanced at the commotion. I sent a text at 11:26 p.m. in my house group chat so my roommates knew what was happening near our home, and we went straight to taking pictures. I want to say we took maybe three pictures before a group of people walked past us on their way to a party. They seemed a bit shaken up and had come from the direction of the cop cars. 

The nosey journalist in me quickly stopped them to ask what was going on down there. It is hard to recall the specifics of the conversation because it happened so quickly, but they explained there was a stabbing. One person recalled seeing someone laying with blood on them. The group was scared and confused. 

About five minutes later, my roommate came outside after seeing my text. We decided to take the 45-second walk to the end of the street, after discussing what could have happened. Was it a car accident? Was it a stabbing? We had no information. 

It’s roughly 11:35 p.m. and I am standing with my roommate and best friend at a crime scene less than a minute away from my house. We stood and observed for a moment, there was nothing to see other than cops talking to students that passed by and yellow caution tape spread out above the grass. I wanted to talk to an officer, but my friend was uncomfortable and wanted to head back to my house. I put the journalist in me at bay and walked home, the officer wouldn’t have talked to me anyway.  

I went back to my house and continued to take pictures with my friend. There were well over five cop cars flashing lights so close to my house, there was no reason to feel unsafe, after all, we didn’t know the truth of what was going on. 

On Saturday at 12:00 a.m. exactly, Rowan Alert issued a text. “Glassboro Police are investigating a stabbing in the area of Oakwood Ave, OFF CAMPUS. See E-mail for more information.” 

This is the moment we decided it was time to get inside, we were officially scared. I did not feel safe standing right out front of my own home. 

At 4:03 a.m. they issued another text alert letting students know a suspect was identified. Meanwhile, around 12:30 a.m. a picture of the suspect was posted in an app, Yik Yak, that students on campus use to post anonymously about college life. The officer had shown the student this picture and they posted it in there, in hopes someone knew him. 

At 9:17 a.m., they issued a text letting us know the suspect was apprehended. 

That next night, Sunday at 1:55 a.m. Rowan Alert sent another text. “Heavy police activity IAO N Main and Carpenter. Need everyone to stay clear of the area. Incident occurred off campus.” At 7:27 a.m., they let us know the activity had cleared. 

At 1:51 a.m., four minutes before any Rowan Alert was received, a roommate of mine had frantically texted our house chat to see where everyone was and if they were safe. There was a shooting outside of a party. My roommates were on the street where everything was occurring, they weren’t allowed to leave, but they were safe. 

These alerts were vague, and far from timely in my opinion. 

What would have happened if my friend and I had decided to go to that show, would we have walked by the stabbing in the midst of it? Could we have been hurt? Could I have put my friend in a position to be scarred by seeing something traumatic because we had no information?

I appreciate the Rowan Alerts. But what is the point if they’re not being sent when the calls to the police are being made? How does an alert about police activity help me when I’m panicked that my roommates are standing on a street a shooting just occurred, and they’re the only reason I know about the shooting? What is the point in emphasizing “OFF CAMPUS” in all capitals when a majority of students are off campus at the time? 

I can say on my street alone, I know of roughly five residents who are not students. Meanwhile, there are at least three fraternity houses and several other homes filled with Rowan students. 

The stabbing that occurred was in the direct pathway I walk every Tuesday morning for my class in Bozorth Hall. I actually skipped class this past Tuesday in fear of walking through this area, I gave myself a headache stressing over this.

I was scared to walk from the Rowan Boulevard parking garage towards the 220 Boulevard building to visit my friend. A building filled with Rowan students, but is by a location off-campus. 

You can sit here and tell me that there are many ways to feel safe on and off campus. You can tell me to walk in a group and never be alone. It does not change the fact that as a student who is living two hours away from home at a house off-campus, I do not feel safe as a Rowan student. 

And I fear that if something were to ever happen to me, I would become another statistic, another quick alert saying something happened off campus. I don’t want that. I don’t even want to have that thought. I want to feel safe to walk less than five minutes from off-campus to on-campus. 

My only hope to feel safe is the PullaTracker app set to launch in January. I am so excited for this. But will it be enough to make myself and other college students feel safe?

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