Friday, December 3, 2010

Throwing a Wrench Into It

Yesterday at approximately 4:00 PM, Tufts students received an email from TUPD: a man with a handgun had been reported to have been spotted on campus at 2:35 PM. Although the police never found him, a warning with his description was included: African American, male, approximately 40 years old, etc.

At around 5:00 PM, an update came. Someone had replied to the original alert, explaining that he was at the location during the time described, matched the description, and was in fact carrying a silver ratchet wrench, likely mistaken for the gun. The police interviewed him and determined that there was not, and had never been, any actual danger.

But that wasn't the end of it. Today, plastered all over campus, appeared the following fliers:

The popular on-campus poster, seen the day after the incident.
At first, I was amused. A social statement: a white woman holding the tool doesn't get questioned, but a black man is suddenly suspected of wielding a gun; it's talking about sexism and racism. Clever.

But then I thought about it more. What are the implications of this message? That students shouldn't report suspicions? That guns on campus are a joke? That reporting suspicious people is being a bigot, not a good citizen?

The more I considered it, the more I came to believe: this flier is very wrong. It's actually a danger to the campus. Because if it is to be taken seriously, it's telling students to ridicule the person who reported this incident. Suspicious activity is serious, and it should always be reported; no student should have to fear being labeled a racist/sexist for having tried to do the responsible thing.

Note that the flier, of which dozens, if not hundreds of copies exist on campus, contains no information explaining who put it there, as is regularly required by university policy. In other words, the people who put this out did so in secret, overnight, without identifying themselves. That's a good thing, I think. Because if I worked at TUPD, I'd be kinda pissed at the hot-shots who think it's clever to make fun of handguns on campus, or reporting suspicious activity.

I strongly encourage any Tufts residents reading this to combat these posters. Post, alongside them, your own statements. Encourage the reporting of suspicious activity. Support doing the right thing. Plaster "better safe than sorry" or "campus safety > political correctness" or "calling TUPD isn't racist, it saves lives." Don't go ripping anything down; that's not fair, but feel free to exercise your own freedom of speech.

ALWAYS report suspicious activity. Worst case scenario, some unnamed graphic designers think you're a racist. But if you don't, the worst case scenario is that someone ends up dead.

UPDATE (11/4/10): Article continued in new post.

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